Sunday, December 23, 2012

Yoga, Thyroid, and the (potential) dangers if you push too far

Today's NYTimes has an article on the dangers of yoga, for men, as written by the man who wrote this year's "Science of Yoga," (who is also a yogi and a writer for the NYTimes). He talks about competitive yoga (sounds like an oxymoron to me) and other ways in which men either push themselves or their instructors push them too hard (btw, he doesn't ignore women in the article, but the focus is men).

When I teach, one of the first things I say to my classes (after we warm up, because, doggone it, I don't believe you can do yoga without being thoroughly warmed up) is that they need to listen to their bodies. If it even feels like it might start *thinking* about hurting, they need to stop and not do it or pull way back to try it safely.

To me, yoga is about being where you are today. It won't be where you were yesterday and it won't be where you will be tomorrow. So, the important thing is to pay attention to what is happening in your body, mind, and spirit right now. If you consistently practice, you will see benefits, and likely, poses that are challenging or impossible to you now will become easier in time. That is the point. Yoga (imo) isn't something to do once a week. It is really something like brushing your teeth. When I get up, I brush my teeth, every single day. That is how I do yoga. Every single day. It's not always an intense hour-long practice. Sometimes, it's five or ten minutes, but I step on the mat, at least for a little while. Every single day.

Being hypothyroid means that I need to do less exercise (very little aerobic because that messes with my thyroid's calm and makes me dip more into hypothyroid land) but I have found that yoga helps me retain balance, strength, and flexibility and even heart health since yes I do raise my heart rate with some of the more challenging poses even if I am not running or jumping to get my aerobics in. Try plank pose on your elbows and toes and try holding it for a minute. (Keep breathing naturally and make sure your elbows are directly below your shoulders. Make sure your butt doesn't rise and that your shoulder blades are broad along your back. Keep your neck aligned with the rest of your spine, your butt flat, and your legs straight so as to not injure yourself. Push your heels toward the back of the room. And remember, if it even feels like it might start thinking about hurting, lower down and rest. Don't overdo. That's not what this is about.) By the end of that minute, you will be very grateful and your heart will be pounding hard.

Even if you do a little but do it every day, you will reap enormous benefits and not just physically. But, pushing yourself can definitely lead to injury so that is the less optimal way to practice. Do it today and tomorrow and the next day and pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you as you sit or stand or lie in a pose and you will be present and eventually by being present, you will progress.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

By the Jugular

It has come to my attention that my eating habits have deteriorated since September. Renaissance Festival season always takes it out of me, but this year, it has drop kicked me back into the energy roller coaster that spells, potato addiction. 

Generally, during the festival season, I work seven days a week and average ten to twelve hours a day. So, from mid-August to the end of October, I am just trying to hang on until I can catch a breath during the first week of November.

Having a thyroid condition that kicks my energy-level's butt on a daily basis doesn't help matters so I end up eating quick carbs to ensure that I will be able to stay awake enough to do a good and solid job in all my various endeavors. Don't get me wrong. Many people work hard. I get that. And many people work at the ren fest and work seven days a week just like I do. I am not discounting how hard they work. I am just speaking of my personal experience here and the thyroid condition makes everything harder. Ask anyone with hypothyroidism and they'll tell you. For a health issue that isn't life threatening (not usually, anyway) it can be one of the more debilitating ones (as far as your energy level is concerned).

So, how do I do it? How do I keep myself from falling over in exhaustion while working my butt off? Enter the much beloved and dreaded potato. Ah, potato, you truly are the Queen of Foods as far as I'm concerned. You bring such joy, such relief, such bliss and contentedness that you leave me breathless, happy, and fulfilled. 


And I think that right there is the crux of the matter. You bring relief, but you aren't a constant source of energy and support. On the contrary, you are consistently quicksilver. One second I feel terrific after eating you and the next, I feel like I have fallen into the abyss. 

I know how wrong you are for me. I truly do. I see what you do to me. I see how you bring me to the high of highs and the low of lows. If I weren't already married, I would look at us as having a very unhealthy romance or worse, a junkie/dealer relationship. 

Whenver I need a fix, one that will give me a boost, do I go to uppers or cocaine? No,  those will never do for me. Me? I run to french fries, preferably with either ketchup or ranch dressing, although my favorite, garlic mayo, definitely still holds the key to my heart. 

And here's the most insidious thing of all. Once I start eating you, I also start inching towards other forbidden fruits. For me, those aren't actual fruits, they're grains. Specifically, I must refrain from letting wheat pass my lips. But here's the thing, once I start eating potatoes, bread and its ilk creep into my diet as well. And then? And then, I make excuses for my behavior. "Oh, just one sandwich," I murmur as I glassily eye the menu and once again fall under the grilled cheese and french fry spell. "I can stop anytime I want to." And that's the thing. In the moment, I believe it. I truly believe that I will be able to curtail or stop next time. In my heart, I feel that this one time will be the one time and then next time, I will forego both of these foods that have such a negative effect on my body. I know, I *know* exactly what eating both of them will do to me, and I still eat them. It's nuts, but there it is. I am addicted to those fast, white carbs.

Last night, I sank to my personal diet low and had a sandwich and french fries for dinner. Interestingly, I felt defensive of my right to eat whatever I wanted. I knew how sick I'd be afterward (and I was. I hardly slept all night because of this meal). I knew that it was terrible for me and for my poor gallbladder that is hanging on by a thread (long story). I knew I'd feel like crap afterward but if anyone had tried to talk sense into me and tell me not to eat this food, I would have gladly ripped their heads off.

This sort of food addiction is strange. I'm not binging. I don't eat any of it often, but when I do, the pleasure I get from it is intense and borders on creepy. And here's the thing: I have given up many other foods and been just fine. I have been a vegetarian since 1987. Three years ago, I gave up chocolate (because it, too, caused me some health issues). A year and a half ago, I gave up sugar and by some miracle, I have not gone back to eating it. While I miss it, it does not hold the same power over me. So, I know that I can and do have the willpower to make good choices consistently. I know I can do these things when I need to. If you knew how much I love sweets and chocolate in particular, you would understand the significance of those actions. But bread and potatoes? Oh yes. They still have me by the jugular. 

Yet, most of the time, I don't eat wheat, either. Actually, last night was the first time I'd eaten bread in months and months. I blame the potato. It's a gateway food, for me, to whiter and whiter carbs. 

And so today, this morning, I will do something about it.

I am starting a food diary today. As of right now,  I am not sure I can give potatoes up for good. But I will see if there is a way to at least know how often I eat them. 

Hopefully, seeing everything in black and white will help me deal with the cravings for these carbs. If I could look at them without seeing them as delicious food, that would be amazing. If, instead, I could see them as almost dangerous, that would be ideal. Sadly, I was absent the day they handed out the ability to do things in moderation. I can't just have a potato today and then not eat it again for a few weeks. I know myself too well for that.

But at least, if I keep a food diary, I will consciously see the results of my choices. And maybe that will help me make better choices in the long run.

Please Note

Welcome to Natural Thyroid. This blog details my process of treating my hypothyroidism naturally. Please note: I am not telling you *to* do or not to do anything with my posts (remember to work with your medical practitioner, whether it's an allopath or an alternative medicine practitioner).