Sunday, May 30, 2010

Doctors suck

I have no more patience for the health care system, we have no choice but to learn to take care of our own health issues.  When it comes to treating just about any ongoing health problem, in my experience, doctors have been completely useless and for the most part very uninformed.

For years I've had various symptoms that nobody has been able to really find an explanation for.  Migraines, chest pain/heart palpitations, anxiety, fatigue, digestive problems with weight loss, and very poor concentration.   Tests are always coming back normal.

This weekend I felt the pressure in my chest becoming more uncomfortable.  This feeling has come and gone for years, but nobody can tell me what it is.  Twice I went for an ECG which was apparently normal.  Now this doctor seemed to question why I was even coming to see him today if I had the problem for so long.  I explained that it came and went and that other tests were normal.  Then he questioned why I was seeing him instead of my family doctor, to which I explained that my doctor was usually at the clinic on that day so I was expecting to see him, but he was not there for whatever reason.  So already I'm basically a burden to this man who seems to think I'm going there for the fun of it on a Friday evening because of I have nothing better to do.  He checks my heart rate and all that and it seems normal.  "I think the problem may be coming from here", he said, pointing to his head.  Thanks, doc.

I asked him about thyroid issues potentially causing this and he said that my thyroid results were completely normal.  Through my reading I've found that TSH lab tests are not exactly a great way of assessing thyroid function, but he replied that it is the standard and there was no problem with it.  So there goes any potential thyroid discussion.

Next I asked about my adrenals.  He looked amused and asked to see my armpits, apparently if you grow hair in that area then your adrenals are fine.   I googled this to find out, I assume that this would be a symptom of Addison's disease rather than more moderate adrenal weakness, but doctors do not recognize that this exists.  There goes any potential adrenal discussion.  At least I know my armpit hair is not lacking.

Finally I asked to be tested for food allergies.  He says did not want to send me to get tested for this because he was not my family doctor, which I suppose is reasonable.  This means I get the opportunity to come another day and wait another hour or two to get a paper that he could easily write for me.  But I think the real reason he didn't want to send me is that I asked him too many questions and he thinks I'm some sort of hypochondriac that doesn't have any real problem.  I should just cut out foods to see what I'm allergic to, he said.   Thanks again, doc.

I did not feel I was taken seriously at all.  I spend a huge amount of time reading about health problems trying to figure out why I don't feel right, but doctors are not open to discussion about anything that they were not taught in medical school.  I'm not a thyroid expert, but even after reading a book or two is enough to learn that typical thyroid tests are inadequate and do not pick up most cases of hypothyroidism.  I can't say that this is part of my problem or not, but it would be nice to be able to discuss it with a health professional.

So the search continues....

Monday, May 24, 2010

Relationships with family and friends

I still feel that I have been neglecting the importance of family and friends in my life.  My family has dinner every Sunday at my grandmother's house, and for the past year I've been there only a couple of times.  Not that I have such a busy schedule, I just preferred to have the weekends free.  But the last couple of weeks I went and felt that it was nice to see them.  At the end of the evening I'm certainly ready to leave, but it is usually a positive experience.

Family always brings up old memories and issues, so sometimes it is easier just to stay away rather than make the effort to spend time with them.  My moods can shift very quickly around my mother, so it can often be a stress to be there too.  But there's something comforting about eating a meal with family and then lounging around watching TV together.  We're not the most communicative bunch but we are who we are.  My grandmother has Alzheimer's and is getting worse, so it is important for me to be able to spend as much time with her as possible while she still recognizes me.  

I also have trouble getting close to friends.  I have one good friend that I see on a weekly basis, we usually go out to eat or see a movie.  I also go to 12-step meetings (AA and NA), so I see people there a few times a week.  But aside from that, most people remain acquaintances.  There are so many people that I could easily initiate friendships with but I just don't do it.  I'm fairly independent and prefer spending a lot of time doing my own thing, although a certain amount of interaction is needed on a regular basis.  I think becoming close to somebody requires a certain amount of vulnerability, and I guess I find it easier to avoid that as much as possible.

Relationships are an essential component of health and can't be ignored.  Allowing myself to have more close relationships would be one of the best things I could do for myself.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Is there really a point?

Life is complicated enough without obsessing about food to the point of expecting perfection.  Wake up, live, eat, continue to live, eat some more, live some more, go to bed.  Of course there are different variations of this, but that's basically what it should be.  And that's how things used to be for me, when I was younger.  I had a great appetite, would eat until I was full, then forget about it until the next meal.  I wasn't constantly thinking about what I should or shouldn't be eating, planning the next meal, craving, or feeling guilty about anything.  This is ultimately the relationship I would like to have with food.  I want to satisfy my appetite without over-thinking it.   The amount of energy that I give to this is tremendous.  Researching nutrition can become all-encompassing, because there is no end to information and nobody really has any final word on what the "optimum" diet is, if that even exists.

So once again I begin to question whether or not this information is really useful to me or not.  I really don't know.  I'm on the fence between becoming more stringent with my food choices, or with just eating good foods and not thinking too much about it.

There are aspects of my life that I feel are being ignored in an attempt to find the perfect way of eating.  Perhaps there is a way to integrate everything together, rather than having to choose one over the other.   I find this extremely difficulty, and will usually give up one interest if I find another, rather than finding balance.  But this hasn't worked for me in the past, so maybe it is time to try something new.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Finding the underlying issue behind eating patterns

When it comes to my eating patterns, in particular bingeing, there are several factors that come into play.   I tend to look at flour and sugar as the bad guys, triggering a neurochemical response that causes me to sometimes lose control and continue to eat way past the point of fullness.   However, something that is important to note is that sugar/flour sometimes cause me to eat to excess.   There are certainly times where I am able to consume these things without any craving or need to binge afterward.  It then seems inappropriate to look at them as the root of the problem, when there is another variable at play.  Sure, sugar can trigger a binge, but what is it that is causing me to have that response at certain times, while other times it doesn't?

I think it goes back to my emotional health and level of stress at the moment.  This weekend I was out of town visiting family.  One day, I had some pie for dessert, and then literally had a chocolate bar thrown at me, which I certainly ate.  I was able to stop after that and go to bed without much of an issue.   The day after, I ate lots of sweets throughout the day, and come evening had a massive binge on chocolates and other sweet things that was completely out of control.

So what was the difference between these two days?   These are potential explanations for the day of the binge:

  • I had eaten sugar consistently throughout the day, before the binge began
  • A particularly stressful/emotional day was coming up, and I didn't want to think about it
  • I was alone at night watching TV
  • I had consumed large quantities of caffeine during the day
I think stress is a huge factor here.  The upcoming day was something I was very concerned about, and when I'm worried about something I try to completely forget about it.  A binge is probably a way of helping me to avoid dealing with whatever is going on.  Not a very helpful method, but maybe at certain times I just don't know how to deal with things any other way.

What I think is important for me to learn is that sugar is not the root of the problem.  It triggers a reaction, sometimes, but the reason for this is deeper.  Simply getting rid of sugar and not dealing with the emotional issues that cause the binge is not solving the problem.   In a sense, a binge is sending me a message that there is something that needs to be dealt with.  I can avoid sugar for the rest of my life, but if I continue to be unable to manage my stress levels, am I really solving anything?

Learning to manage my stress may be the best thing I can do for myself.  By getting to the root of the problem, the symptoms can fall away on their own.  This sounds nice in theory, but managing stress is easier said than done.  I wish the problem was food itself, it would be easier to solve, but I need to start looking at myself and working on changing my habits and thought patterns if I'm going to find peace of mind.  I plan to explore different tools I can use to do this, rather than focusing only on the foods that I eat.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Many different types of relationships with food

I'm always curious to see what and how other people eat.  Everybody seems to have a different relationship with food.  For some each bite is a huge pleasure, for some it is a nuisance to have to eat, others eat like a bird for fear of gaining weight.   Some take a lunch break to eat with friends, others eat in front of the computer (myself included), and others don't have any routine and seem to even forget to eat.  I sometimes feel that I'm the only one that has quirks when it comes to feeding myself, but when I take the time to observe, I see that this is not the case.

Quirks aside, I think it is sad that so many of us have a painful relationship with food.  While I'm learning that I don't need to be afraid of calories, I have spent a lot of time worrying about weight gain even during periods of time that I have been underweight.  I'm starting to gain some now and I feel healthier for it, my fear is going away and I actually look forward to reaching my natural weight whatever it really is.

There is so much fear when it comes to food, I think it is a major problem in our society.  But what is the source of this?  I think there are many social issues, but I'm not confident that they are the root of the problem.  Pressure to be thin while being bombarded with fast food advertisements certainly encourages a confused relationship with food, but I think the issue is really deeper than that.  I think that food is often used to replace something else that is missing in our lives, even though there is no way that it can do so.  Is it friendship?  Romantic relationships?  Having purpose?  I don't know exactly, but I feel that for me when my relationship to food gets chaotic I am trying to find some sort of comfort in it.  Either comfort in giving in to my cravings, or the comfort that comes from following a strict program.

I feel that these may be at the root of the problem, although I find it it bit on the mushy side.  I think the reason that food can serve as such a comfort is that it does have a direct effect on our brain chemistry.  By releasing serotonin, beta-endorphins, and dopamine, we can try to artificially create the feelings that we are missing.  I think if my brain chemistry was fine in the first place, I wouldn't have cravings or overeat certain foods.

I think that whatever our relationship to food may be, it can teach us a lot about ourselves and how we relate to the world.  What we eat literally becomes us, so how our relationship to it not be meaningful?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

An evening with friends and food

I have often failed to consider the social aspect of health when trying to figure out how to feel my best.  I find it much easier to focus on food, nutrients, exercise, etc.  I tend to be more of an introvert and feel most comfortable alone or with small groups, so socializing is something that takes effort.  However, I've noticed that the times where I feel the best are when I have felt a connection with other people.  This isn't always the case, often social situations can come with a lot of anxiety too.  This is an area of my life that needs some improvement, so that I can feel more at ease with people and to reap the benefits that comes from human connection.

Today I went out to eat with some friends and had some good food.  I ended up deciding to eat whatever I wanted, including dessert.  Eating out has always been a very important thing to me, and it is usually the place where I have trouble balancing my diet.  When I reduce my consumption of unhealthy foods, it is the thought of not being able to eat out that I stress about.  The thought of never being able to enjoy certain foods with friends, etc.  I've yet to find a proper balance where I'm able to eat these foods but then go back to eating properly right after.  For some reason I think there are only two options, either being extremely strict or having a free-for-all.  This is a common belief that causes me a lot of difficulty in different aspects of my life.

But today was good.  Going out, seeing people I have not seen in a while, and enjoying good food  I don't see how such an evening can be seen as a bad thing even if what I ate wasn't perfect.  Maybe it really is possible for me to have some sort of balance that I'm at peace with.  This is what my original goal was, to find a balance where I am taking care of my self and not feeling deprived.

Friendship is an essential component of health, and I hope give it the attention that it deserves.