Monday, May 14, 2012

16 Months: My Transformation

While I usually talk about writing and books and word nerdiness here, this post is going to be a bit different. I'm hoping it will be of some benefit to others in their journeys.

A photo that amazing photographer Erin Summerill took of me at the recent LDStorymakers annual conference inspired me to put this post together. Even with my goofy facial expression and hand waving (I can't teach without using my hands), I've got great before and after pictures.

The really short version: 
For some unknown (then) reason, I got fat, sank into a horrid depression, and otherwise was miserable. Now I'm, well, not all that. The end. Oh, and this is what I looked like. The picture was taken at the 2010 UVU Book Academy conference. I may have gained a few pounds more in the following three months.

The longer version:
For most of my adult life, not counting pregnancies, my has weight stayed in about a seven-pound range. Ideally, I would have liked to have been around 10 lbs lighter and at my marriage weight, but I was at a healthy weight and felt decent about myself.

Then, a few years ago, the pounds began creeping on. I wasn't doing anything different in my life, as far as I could tell. Okay, I could have exercised more than I was (although I didn't stop altogether). And sure, I ate chocolate here and there. But that wasn't a change. Nothing significant had changed in my lifestyle.

But hey, I knew how to lose weight, right? I began watching my diet carefully, cutting here and there and eating much healthier. I exercised more.

Result: More weight gain. The scale just crept up and up. I'll clarify here that my weight gain wasn't in the realm of anything you'd see on The Biggest Loser, but it was still way more than was healthy, and I hated feeling like a beached whale. I hated not fitting into my biggest clothes and having to go to the thrift store to find stuff to wear. I rarely wore anything that didn't stretch.

At first I was in denial. Sure, the scale was up, but I didn't look that bad . . . right? I inherited my mother's frame, so I really can carry a little extra weight without it showing up. When my chocolate cookbook first came out, I had people asking how I could write it and stay so thin. That was before the weight gain. So when those comments stopped altogether, I had a clue what it meant. I was fat. I cringed at every photo of me. My usable wardrobe shrank and shrank.

I started to suspect I had a thyroid problem, but I didn't want to be one of those people making excuses for being fat. ("Oh, it's glandular . . .") I brought it up to my doctor, who ran a blood panel. My TSH and T4 were normal, so I was told not to worry about it; I wasn't hypothyroid.

But the results didn't sit right with me. I had plenty of symptoms of hypothyroid beyond unexplained weight gain, including a low body temperature (97.1), brain "fog," fatigue, depression, headaches, brittle nails, and a bunch of other things.

After doing a bit more research, including talking with a good friend who has a thyroid condition, I was convinced that something wasn't right. My original doctor, while a great guy, was a GP and likely didn't know how complex hypothyroid issues are and which panels to run, or how to read them. Finding a doctor to take me seriously and who knew enough to run the right tests took awhile, but eventually I did, thanks to the referral of a friend.

And waddaya know, but my T3 (the one that really matters) was in the toilet. So was my progesterone (which helps with stress, sleep, and mood), and a few other things, including Vitamin D, which was also contributing to my depression. I was indeed hypothyroid, among other things. My body was whacked out.

Almost as soon as I began taking the supplements I needed, my life, and my body, began to change. While the weight didn't come off in a flash, it did come off, slowly and steadily.

Here's a key point: I still had to do the work. 

I had to exercise, stay hydrated, and watch what I ate. But at least losing weight became possible, where before, it wasn't.

Something to note here: It's a horrid myth that to exercise you have to find something you like to do. I hate exercising, but I love having exercised. If you're waiting to like huffing and puffing and sweating like a pig, and you're using your dislike of exercise for not doing it, then you'll never have success. I often go running even when I hurt all over and I feel like someone's taking an ice pick to the back of my head. I go because it's something I have to do. I force myself to do it. I don't go to the gym when I feel good. I go to the gym and work my tail off so I'll feel good.

Another aspect in my success was that I started reading blogs of people who'd managed to lose weight and keep it off to learn more about how to fuel my body properly for weight loss (which takes more than cutting calories, of course). I grew up in a nutritious home, but there was still a lot to learn.

I'm now within (count 'em!) 9 pounds of my marriage weight. I'm solidly in the healthy range for what my weight should be, and on the low end of my old range. (I think I can actually hit that old marriage weight yet!) I sleep better (didn't even know how messed up my sleep was until it was fixed). I can exercise more. My chronic headaches are still around, but they're more manageable. My depression isn't the dark sink hole it once was.

No, life isn't all unicorns and rainbows. I still have chronic headaches. Depression of some kind just runs in my family. But things are so much better.

Losing the weight hasn't been an easy road. Like I said, it's still work. But now I can fit back into my skinny clothes, and my fat clothes are a thing of the past.

In my before picture up there, I hated myself.

But now? Well, this next picture was taken just over a week ago, at the LDStorymakers conference. I feel and look like myself again. Huzzah!


Susan Anderson said...

What kind of doctor did you go to, Annette? I have a DIL whose body chemistry seems to be off, and she can't find a doctor who will investigate her thyroid more intensively.

Congrats on getting your body back in tune. You look great!


Laura said...

Believe it or not, I can sooo relate to this. My dad's side of the family is all hyperthyroid, my mom's side hypo. My husband and his side is hypo too. Which made me super messed up. After a total thyroidectomy and ensueing permanent hypoparathyroidism, I have empathy for you. Thyroid makes all the difference. Yes, I still have the headaches, and keeping levels stable is tricky, if not impossible. But I exercise and eat right and take all my pills. Good for you in taking a stand for yourself.

lesa said...

Awesome! I enjoyed reading your personal story. I'm glad you are feeling better.

Stacy Whitman said...

I know exactly what you mean--I'm also hypothyroid. My problem is that I have yet to find a doctor since the one who worked with me as yours did (that was when I lived in Seattle), and I'm at the highest weight I've ever been. Did you go to an endocrinologist? Some people say I should, some say endos are worse than your average doctor who won't listen. I've been working down my insurance list for months now, but no one will answer my questions, and I'm not paying $30 a pop to make an appointment to get questions answered before I switch doctors (my current doctor is telling me that my 4.9 TSH is "normal"--that's higher than it was when I was diagnosed, before medication!).

I'm surprised you found someone in Utah to listen--that was a really hard time for me, thyroid-wise. Glad you found someone who didn't tell you it was all in your head. Too often that's what doctors do to people with thyroid issues.

Stephanie Black said...

Annette, I'm so glad you were able to get the thyroid issues diagnosed correctly. And you look absolutely fantastic!

Jenny P. said...

Yay for feeling fabulous... and looking it too! My father is a compounding pharmacist and works with a lot of patients who are having thyroid/hormone issues. It's amazing what getting your body back in balance can do! Good for you for trusting your gut and for working so hard! You really do look great. :)

Annette Lyon said...

Thanks, everyone! I can answer some questions offline, but one thing I learned the hard way:

Often, you can't even book an appointment with an endocrinologist until you have a diagnosis. But how do you get one? It's one of those frustrating circular things.

I finally found a hormone specialist rather than an endo.

Jennifer Holt said...

Terrific post, Annette! Thanks so much for sharing! I went through the same thing and was to the breaking point. I felt like I was going crazy...literally. It was truly an answer to a prayer when my husband heard about a hormone specialist in our area and I made an appointment. Not only was my T3 so low that the doc said she didn't know how I was getting out of bed in the morning, my progesterone was non-existent. It's been a couple of months now, and I feel like a new person. Like you said, it's still hard and I have many of the same symptoms you talked about, but I'm starting to feel like myself again, the weight is slowly starting to come off, and my hubby and kids are glad to have the 'real me' back! P.S. I read this after my morning run, and it was great to hear someone else say that they don't love to exercise, but that they do it so that they can feel good. I'm looking forward to getting to know you better over the years! Thanks again!

Betsy Schow said...

Way to go Annette. I need to grill you on the sleep thing. I know my hormones are out of whack and I'm not sleeping, but I have no idea what to do about.

As for exercise, I think you hit a fine point. I hate running, but I love the accomplishment I feel afterwards. But in a way, that's still finding something about it that I enjoy. I truly believe that having some sort of activity in your life is the key to happiness. If you are miserable doing it, you won't keep it up. That's why I counsel people to find something they enjoy doing. Dancing, walking, playing tennis- whatever. Eventually you can get to the higher level that you are at. Realizing that it's okay if it sucks while you're doing it, but you feel so much better for having done it.


Small Town Shelly Brown said...

That is fabulous Annette! I have been watching myself for thyroid issues as they run in my family. Good for you for trusting your gut and getting to a specialist. Sometimes it's hard to go against the GP.

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

That is fabulous Annette! I have been watching myself for thyroid issues as they run in my family. Good for you for trusting your gut and getting to a specialist. Sometimes it's hard to go against the GP.

Just SO said...

You look great! I'm glad that you were able to figure things out.

Melanie Jacobson said...

Bravo! I never thought you looked fat, but at Storymakers I did think you looked extra great. :)

i'm erin. said...

You're a babe! I'm so glad to be the photographer and capture your moments of awesomeness.

T.J. said...

Gotta give the token guy post.

At Storymakers, I was sitting in the green room when you walked in once and I thought "I swear, Annette looks thinner." As I told Mary that I wanted to say something but feared that it assumed I thought you were fat before, she reprimanded me. "Women like being told they look thinner than they were. ESPECIALLY if she has been doing something to lose those pounds." Consider me penitent to that.

But now you have me thinking that with my recent weight gain, if I'm going about the "diet and exercise" concept all wrong.

C. Michelle Jefferies said...

I've never heard of a hormone Dr. I've struggled with my thyroid all my adult life. I hate the constant blood draws and guesses at dosages. I need to talk to your Dr. I think.

Michelle J.

Shanda said...

You know, Annette, until seeing these two photos together, I never noticed a change in you. Over ten years ago, I read about a syndrome regarding T3s but at the time there were very few doctors in the entire country that would even go there. I had a very low basal body temperature at the time (one of the symptoms of the T3 thing) and I suspect I still do. Despite training for over a year and watching my body shape change, I am STILL within ten pounds of my heaviest weight. I bought the whole "muscle weighs more than fat" thing for a while, but now the weight is coming back and I'm within TWO pounds of my heaviest weight. Honestly, I am freaking out. I would love to visit your person, because I don't think there are many options left for me, and I can't keep going on this way anymore. Are they accepting new patients, do you know?

Shannon said...

Me too!! Misdiagnosed until I started seeing a woman OB and she caught my enlarged thyroid immediately. I've got Hashimoto's and go to an endo in Salt Lake. It's so nice to feel alive and normal again. Good for you for telling your story.

Kristina P. said...

You look great! But even better, I'm glad you finally feel great.

Susan said...

You look amazing. Good for you. I'm going to direct my sis-in-law to this post.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

I am so beyond glad for you right now. Seriously, you should see the huge grin on my face!

My mum is hypothyroid and her levels tested normal even when her thyroid gland doubled in size and was growing out the side of her neck! I'm exhibiting symptoms now and am trying to harness the energy to fight for more than the standard tests to be done, because they're so horribly ineffective it's laughable.

So glad you got answers and got the help you needed to be your best, healthiest self. You've worked so hard and it's so inspiring to see you reaping the rewards of that hard work!

Lara Neves said...

You look amazing, Annette!

And I totally relate...I've been having these issues for about 7 years now, and I finally had them under control and was back to a decent weight when I moved here...but I think the stress of the move caused things to go haywire again, and it took me a while to find a good endo here, etc. etc.

So, I'm working hard to get there...but I will! You are inspiring!

Jessica G. said...

You look amazing!
Sounds very similar to what I've gone through…sounds like I might need to talk to a different doctor (most of em can't get past my bionic-ness).

Danielle Ellis said...

Hi Annette,

I had the exact same thing going. My problem was not so much weight gain, but incredible fatigue, and brain fog, bordering on depression, although I wouldn't have admitted it.
For those still searching for help, go to Dr. Mark Hyman's website.
He says that once upon a time, thyroid problems weren't treated until 5.0. The current recommendation is for anything over a 3.5 to be treated (I think- maybe 3.0. I don't have time to check right this second.)He tells you what tests to use to help diagnose your problem.
I also discovered that I could heal my thyroid without pharmaceuticals. It has been six months now, so I need to go back and get tested again, but my thyroid was healed in 3 weeks after being out for at least 15 years.
Getting real lab numbers is a vital first step, so you know what you're really working on, but then pharmaceuticals aren't the only answer.
I'm happy to talk to anyone about my results. (702) three three two - four one zero three.

Jami said...

It takes lot of work to figure out what the issue is and then even more to get the issue under control. Congratulations on your tenacity and hard work. And your results--double congrats on that!

Summer said...

Congratulations! I'm working on losing about 20 pounds right now. Maybe I'll get around to blogging about it.

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Why Not? Because I Said So! said...

You look fantastic, but better yet feeling fantastic is the most important.I still want to look into my T-3 levels. I am still very fatigued, even after losing so much weight. Thanks for the inspiration!!

Jordan McCollum said...

You do look mahvelous! WTG on doing the work to get your body better!

I don't hate exercising (as long as I don't have to run), but I have a hard time making it a priority. If I do, something else important pops out of my schedule. Sigh.

Collette said...

Congratulations! I especially liked your emphasis on the fact that you still did the work. There's no magic here. There's some help and a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

Do you have a practitioner you would recommend in Salt Lake or Utah counties? I'm debating between a few and would love any names you could send my way. Thanks!


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