Taking My Vitamins

It started with my neck pain. Which led to an MRI, which led to being told I have degenerative disc disease and arthritis because I’m an old, young woman. The MRI also led to a physical and additional blood work at my GP, which led to a referral to a specialist. A specialist called a hematologist, also known as an oncologist.

No one wants to go to an oncologist, but the office I went to was nice – the people, the setting – and I kept reminding myself I was there because he’s a BLOOD doctor, not a CANCER doctor. More blood draws, more tests.

Along the way, I felt a little weak, tired if I worked out, tired if I didn’t work out (both of which I blamed on the activity or lack of it) and was regularly turned away from donating blood for low hemoglobin, the last attempt showing the lowest levels I’ve ever had.

Then finally last week, a nice call from the nice PA I was set to meet with that afternoon to tell me he could save me an hour and a copay because all the blood work showed was that my iron was low, which is what the guess was at each step along the way and that I needed to take a supplement, probably stop donating blood to build back up my iron, hemoglobin and red blood cells and come back in six months to retest my levels. Thank him on many levels.

I also learned that iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency, and in discussing my 90% vegetarian diet with my doctors, they believed that had something to do with it and said eventually that diet might give me anemia (the whole time it’s just been that my iron is low but not anemic levels at this point), but if it was my preference, there really is nothing wrong with keeping it up and just supplementing my diet.

He told me to take the iron supplement with food to avoid an upset stomach, but not dairy and with a chewable Vitamin C, which helps the absorption, but not with Calcium, which blocks the absorption. And thus began my cannonball into the world of supplements. I researched the what, the when and finally ended up with this schedule:

In the morning I now take a Vit D + Calcium, the two are paired in one pill because Calcium helps the absorption of the D, and I take a B-Multi. Both help with energy, so that’s why I take them in the morning.

At lunch, I take my iron tablet and a chewable C.

After dinner/before bed, I take my multi because in the past this one has made me nauseous, so I figure taking it before bed allows me to sleep through it, and I take my flaxseed oil so my multi is not lonely (obviously).

And I keep them all in my AARP-approved daily pill organizer. See? OLD, young woman. And actually each day is too small for all six, so I started leaving Sunday empty to put a few Cs in there.

Now that the vitamins I’ve taken off and on for a while have a purpose and a schedule, for some reason it’s easier to take them. So far I haven’t had any adverse effects from the iron pills (you know the ones…these supplements don’t have the best rep) and I hope that it starts to work so my energy levels go up and my blood starts pumping through my running legs again so they don’t feel so dead and slow!

That time I couldn’t.

Can’t is a dirty word among athletes (and bloggers…and teachers don’t seem to particularly care for it either), but earlier today I remembered a time I couldn’t.

During either my freshman or sophomore year of college, I came home for Spring Break and took a day trip to Sedona. The idea was to rent mountain bikes and ride around the red rock mountains, but after just 20 minutes, I couldn’t. The gears might have been wrong on the bike, but my body just felt like it was working way too hard and I wanted to throw up. And also curl up and die.

Getting my skinny 18-year-old butt kicked on a mountain bike wasn’t an aha moment that made me focus on wellness (that came still a few years later), but remembering it today was one of those…yay, look how far I’ve come! moments.

A few years later I started running, then I worked up the courage to step into my first spin class and I started to see throwing up as a good thing! I used to judge how good of a class it was based on how many times I felt like I was going to throw up (don’t worry, I never actually did).

I guess I thought of that Sedona bike ride today because I’ve just been feeling unfocused lately. I’ve been pretty good at keeping up with workouts, so we’ll call it training for life.

I work out for a lot of reasons – to train for races, to feel sane, to indulge my sweet tooth every now and then and looking hot in a bikini doesn’t hurt – and now I’ll add to the list…I train for life. If the opportunity came up, my strong body could take me mountain biking, out for an all-morning hike or keep up in a random fitness class and let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just nice to not get winded on the stairs!

Do you feel unfocused if you’re not training for something specific? Have you gotten in shape after getting your butt kicked doing something that should be pretty easy?

Sugar, Sugar

Despite my sweet tooth, I can admit sugar is B.A.D. and I do try to limit it.  Earlier this year, I actually started to feel when I’d overdone it with the sugar in my congested sinuses, which led me to research the connection and try to reduce my sugar intake as well as limit other possible offenders – dairy and wheat.

Every now and then, I need a little reminder. A few months ago, it was Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet and today it was Dr. Lustig.

Who?! Today on Facebook, a friend posted this transcript from Alec Baldwin’s radio show in which he interviews Dr. Lustig, who is on somewhat of an anti-sugar crusade, especially as it concerns children.

Side note: As I type this, I’m watching the little girls on Toddlers and Tiaras DOWN Pixie Stix.  Ugh. She wants to be Miss America and her mom is about the size of four Miss Americas combined.  Yes, maybe that’s mean, but what example is she setting for her daughter and what road does she think she’s sending the poor girl down?!

Anyway, I totally blame Dr. Lustig for me checking every label at the grocery store today.

Pop quiz: Which has less sugar – cinnamon raisin bread, everything bagel thins or cinnamon raisin english muffins?

I guessed the bagel thins, but ended up taking home the english muffins because they actually had the least amount of sugar per serving! Total elimination is tough, but I’ll take the lesser of the evils at this point.

I also blame him for deciding for the 64th time to stop drinking fake sugar in my Coke Zeros and Diet Cokes. One day at a time, right?!

Does sugar intake concern you? How do you limit it?

I’m totally guilty of having a weakness for ice cream this HOT summer…do you have suggestions for sugar-free (or low sugar) alternatives?

Pretty Pale

The other day, I found myself in the middle of a conversation about tanning.  It was ridiculous to me, but I kept my comments to myself as my friends compared memberships and timing and appropriate levels of nudity.

Well, almost.  I did let one, “wow, that really IS a good price for skin cancer,” slip.  Oops.

I live in Arizona and I get a lot of my exercise outside.   I love the feel of warm sun on my skin. A little tan is inevitable, but with a family history of skin cancer, I hate the idea of increasing my risk.  I’m not immune to the messages that tan is beautiful, but I’m not a sucker for them either. 

Call me crazy…or better yet, call me an independent thinker, but in my mind:

pale skin > believing you need to change to be beautiful


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pale skin > tan wrinkles


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pale skin > orange skin


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pale skin > people laughing at you, taking your picture and submitting it to www.paleisthenewtan.com because you have become a tanorexic (warning: this site is an addicting train wreck!)

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pale skin > skin cancer


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Instead of wasting your time and health in the name of vanity, slap on some (SOME) self-tanner and do something legitimately productive with your time!