Saturday, 28 January 2012


Some days, I feel so great, I feel bulletproof.  I feel better than I did when I was 25.  I’m full of energy and ready to get the day started and do SOMETHING remarkable to make the day worth talking about, to mark each day with some event, something tangible that can be spoken of, laughed at, and recalled later.  I have plans of things I want to do, lists so long that they can’t possibly be accomplished in a week, let alone a weekend.  But most days I feel like I’m up to the challenge.
I was always this way—mostly positive, a little hyper, driven and a type “A”.  I was born knowing that each one of us on this planet has an expiration date, and for some of us, it is much shorter than others.  But we don’t normally know which one of us has the shorter lifeline.  So we waste our time sitting for hours in front of the tv (or the computer—me included sometimes). 
I have a day job.  I get up every morning—very early—get into dress clothes and commute to an office in the city.  I sit at a desk for most of the day; I talk on the phone, I pace around, I send emails and file papers.  This is life, dull as it is; this is what allows me, and everyone else who wasn’t born rich, to have a house, a car, to feed myself and my family.  And whatever is left over is what pays for the fun things I want to do.  There’s not a lot left over—my fun things are usually necessarily cheap.
So I have to work, but when I’m not at work, my time is my own.  How I use it, what I do with it, is entirely up to my imagination (and budget).
I got out there last weekend in one of these feel-good moods, and I went tobogganing.  Bought a cheap toboggan to replace the one I broke, got all dressed up in snow pants and boots, and just got out there, seized the moment and took off down the hill.  As long as there were no trees on the hill, what did I have to lose?
Now, if you’ve followed my facebook page, you already know that there was a dip at the bottom of that hill, followed by a jump, and through whatever design of nature, I hit the dip backwards, tailbone first, and I’m still feeling the results a week later.  I sucked it up at the time, got up, climbed back up the hill, and just took another run down that hill, only this time a little more carefully—I steered.   I wasn’t done having fun yet, pain or no pain in my butt. 
Stopping right then would have been failure. 
So there was no failure, no accident, no need to go home.  Because failure just incites me to try harder.  Weakness makes me mad--at myself-- for not being more fit/fast/strong.  Don’t even try to tell me I’m too old for this sh!t.  Because apparently I think I’m bulletproof and there can be no repercussions other than some tender muscles for a few days.  (If I’m going to break my neck, at least I’ll be having fun at the time.  But because I’m normally bulletproof, these kinds of ideas do not cross my mind when I’m busy having fun).
A bit of pain then, and a lot of searing pain later, did not stop me from working out, did not stop me from going rock-wall climbing a couple of days later.  In fact, as my muscles began to give out as I climbed away, my anger at my weak, pathetic arms only served to make me forget about the pain in my butt, and it drove me to keep climbing around for a full hour, longer than the seasoned patrons that came after me and left before me.  No, I’m not superhuman, just really stupid-stubborn sometimes.  Sometimes I just don’t know when to stop.  Sitting still is not my strong suit.
And I don’t like being told what I can and cannot do.  Not even by my own body.

Had a migraine the day I went zip-lining in Vancouver--didn't
slow me down--just required extra painkillers....

I haven’t mentioned it much before, but I suffer from chronic migraines.  Migraines that sometimes get so bad that I throw up for hours, migraines that induce shock and convulsions and my husband has to drive me to the hospital for a shot (or two) of Demerol and Gravol, just to give my body a break from the cycle of pain I end up in.  I have had every test, tried every medication out there.  I get headaches almost daily, at best going for about 4 days pain-free.  Then they return with a vengeance.  Paleo has lessened the headaches, at least, lessened the intensity of the migraines.  I have not gone to the hospital for THAT in a while now, and I hope to stay away for a while longer.  But needless to say, I am accustomed to pain.  Sometimes, despite the pain, I still refuse to slow down.  Sometimes that is the root cause of why my migraines put me in hospital—because I did not stop when I should have.  But life is too short to stop—isn’t it?

So it turns out I’m not so bulletproof—not all the time.  This week, I did not want to stop, despite being in pain.  With my aching tailbone, I have not had a good night’s sleep for a week.  I’m stiff all over from sleeping in weird positions to keep my tailbone from touching the bed. (I think I may have broken something).  By Wednesday, my tired, aching body was feeling so run-down that I had a constant headache and was popping advil every 4 hours.  Everything I had planned and wanted to do with my week  just came to a grinding hault.  I crashed.  My perk was gone, my drive was gone, my feel-good serotonin was gone, all of it.  I was hungry, no matter what I ate.  I was tired, but couldn’t sleep comfortably.  I was listless and unmotivated and my body was crying out for some feel-good hormones, just screaming for a pick-me-up, so that it could pick itself back up again and pull me back together...  What happened to me?
I had the energy on Monday to go climbing—pain was not holding me back that day.  What was so special about Monday?  I think back, and now I recall—on Monday I made a cup of nutbutter—and devoured it, giving my body a slew of carbs to help it to carry on.  My body had what it needed to make plenty of serotonin, enough to drive me to get out there and climb despite the pain and stiffness and lack of sleep.

The chicken pakoras are pure evil

And then Tuesday rolled around.  Hakka day.  My weekly work luncheon, a pre-set menu, where we all gorge on totally un-paleo foods.  I had a belly full of starchy evil, and so my body had a rush of serotonin with which to carry on a little more.
And then it was Wednesday, and full of guilt and determined to do better I denied it what it really wanted.  I ate twice as much fruit as I wanted to, but that was it.  The hunger came—that low-grade gnawing hunger that doesn’t go away.  I was listless but restless.  I had cravings.  I wanted a chocolate bar more than anything.  I fell asleep on the couch at 8 pm.
Thursday was much the same.  Thursday morning I got up early and did a mini-WOD—and I was happy with the fact that I got up and tried.  It wasn’t my best effort, but I did it.  Maybe I should have eaten something afterwards.  Normally, I don’t have to.  The WODs are short.  But this wasn’t a normal week.  I was hungry.  Tired.  Listless.  The restlessness stopped.  I was a lump on the sofa.
And then there was Friday.  I broke down—I was tired of being tired and I just didn’t care anymore what it did to my body--I caved and give it starch in the form of french fries.  With gravy.  Suddenly I was not hungry.  I was not cranky.  But for the next 2-3 hours, apathy reigned.  I sat in my chair at work and ceased to care about anyone or anything going on around me.  For a little while, the headachy feeling subsided.
So where did I go wrong?  Why did my body need those carbs so badly?  We all know that carbs are just sugar and the body can run just fine without sugar.  It can burn fat, and it can do it pretty well.
My mind is so focused when I eat the right kinds of foods.  When I stick to the classic meat and veggies, I am sharp of mind (and sharp of wit and tongue, too).  Why did my body hanker for carbs so badly this week?  Why did it need them when I so clearly was not running any marathons?  Is my body not producing enough of those little feel-good hormones serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine?  Most of the time my body must be doing its job properly, because I really do walk around feeling bulletproof even on those days that my head is a little achy, even if my muscles hurt.  But why, then, did I just as suddenly crash and feel like a bag of broken hammers?  Can a little lack of sleep really wreck so much havoc?  What about a little rain?  It was certainly gray and rainy and crappy out there all week.  And how do I get from my low back to my high, when I feel ready to take on the world again?
Here’s what I know about those little feel-good hormones we call serotonin—
·         Carbs cause a reaction in the body that feel like the boost you get from serotonin, but while carbs cause an instant mood lift, their effects are fleeting, usually 1-2 hours, and they do nothing to stimulate further production of more serotonin
·         Protein contains tryptophan which converts into serotonin in the brain, but requires the right ratio of tryptophan to phenylalanine and leucine to do so, so you’re best combining protein with good carbs like fruits and veggies to allow the uptake of that serotonin into the brain
·         Insulin can increase serotonin, but the more it does so, the more you’re risking insulin resistance and the possibility that you will become immune to the feel good serotonin effects.  Then you’ll need higher levels of the stuff just to feel anything at all. 
So how do I get my body to make serotonin?  There are a few suggestions...        
  • Get the right amount of sleep.  I was definitely not sleeping well.  Last night I finally slept pretty good, and I woke up at 5 am this Saturday morning, way too early, but feeling almost completely refreshed (even though my butt is still aching...)
·         Get some exercise.  Monday definitely left me feeling accomplished.  But Thursday was too much.  So don’t get too much exercise.  It’s one thing to motivate yourself, another thing to push too hard when you’re feeling down.  Or hurt and not able to sleep.
·         Rest.  Not every day has to be a marathon of things to do.  Recover.  
·         Eat right—your body needs the right balance of protein, fat and carbs.  Ketosis is great, but sometimes it may need an extra little boost, especially if you’re active.  Just be sure to give it the right kind of boost.  Pasta is not the right carb.  Even though your body may be craving simple carbs like fruit and sugar, starchy carbs like sweet potatoes and squash are actually a much better option.  Consider putting a bit more healthy carbs back into your diet on those low days.
·         Get some sunlight.  Sun definitely plays a role in the creation of serotonin.  A normal winter here in Ontario is sunny 50% of the time, even if it is -30 outside, but the sun’s rays are weak and most of your body is covered in clothing, so your body isn’t getting enough to produce vitamin D.  Consider taking a supplement in the wintertime.  Seriously.  30% of the population in cold climates suffers from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) from lack of sunlight.
·         Hug more.  Ok, hugging actually produces oxytocin which is more of a cuddly hormone, but who couldn’t use a little more hugging?  I could.  I’m not normally cuddly.  Maybe I should be.
So there you have it.  At first, I wanted to believe that maybe, just maybe, my body needed a bit of carb fuel because it didn’t have any fat left to burn.  But that’s just me being delusional.  I’m not THAT skinny.  Of course there’s fat on my bones.  I’m 40 and I’ve had 2 kids.  Sure there’s fat.  So it has to be injury.  Maybe the body just needs a little boost sometimes to pick itself back up after an injury.  Maybe that’s all it needs to feel good again.  I like to feel bulletproof because when I’m bulletproof, I act like a 20-year-old.  I get outside and have fun. 
I'm back to myself today.  I'm playing the chin-up game again, making myself do chinups on each trip to the bathroom as I suck back coffee--today I have to do 5 assisted chinups each time I pass by.  Today, I’m ready to get out there again and accomplish something.  And this time I think I better have a little carb in my breakfast.  Just a little bit so that I’ll be ready for the day.  And maybe afterwards, for the first time in a couple of months, I’ll have an after-workout smoothie.  I’m thinking pumpkin.  Time to look up a recipe in Primal Toad’s Smoothies book.....

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