Fen Phen(not-so-magic pill in a bottle.)

53rd birthday bash. πŸ™‚ 5.3 repeats on Pilot Butte with running BFF’s Joella and Michelle.

I was listening to a great podcast about Fen-Phen. (Maintenance Phase is solidly interesting and thought-provoking for anyone interested in ‘…debunking the junk science behind health fads, wellness scams and nonsensical nutrition advice.’)

Listening to this episode about a super-duper popular diet drug from the 1990’s, I was pretty shocked to learn tons of information I didn’t know about that drug combo when I was taking it. The ONLY thing I knew (cared about) at the time: It was the magic bullet in a pill bottle that could change my life.

For the fat kid who had tried and failed at everything to lose weight and who was horribly desperate to be thin; this drug was something I fought hard to get. Never mind that it was essentially prescribed amphetamine and there were plenty of stories of people ‘not doing well’ on the drug; I doc-shopped my butt off until I found a doctor willing to prescribe it. If it meant the ever elusive, cure-all of thinness — I was in, no matter what it took.

I took the meds for about 8 months before they were banned by the FDA. I was crushed when it was pulled from the shelves in 1997. Unlike a friend at the time, I did not go so far as trying to procure the drugs illegally. That’s only because I am at my core a rule-follower afraid of getting into trouble of any kind. Anyway, that prescribed pill combo worked so well for me with rapid weight loss and no hunger. It was magic. I dropped perhaps 60 pounds in 8 months. I felt like I had found the answer to a happy(thin) life. Never mind the side effects of being jittery, dry mouthed and a racing heart. AS SOON as the prescription ran out, when the FDA pulled the combo, I rapidly re-gained all the lost weight back plus a few empathy/sympathy pounds for good measure. The acute withdrawal was pretty awful as well. I remember feeling like an emotionally deflated balloon for well over a year.

It was not the first miracle cure that would work and then fail in my life. Not by a long shot.

Eventually I moved along to a myriad of other quick-fixes. Way, way down the road of discarded faux-silver bullets I would finally find the combination to health that would work well for me; I would reverse type 2 diabetes and find an active, healthy life. Then I would move into some intensive therapy and would learn to understand an eating disorder, love my body and regain (or gain for the first time?) confidence in who I was and how I was living my life.

Fast-forward 30 years and I’m just now understanding how many horrid physical side-effects were truly possible from this 2-pill combo. Really horrid stuff. I’m fairly certain I escaped most of it; but there is a hint of lingering doubt that something might show up in the future.

As I’m listening to this podcast I also began wracking my brain wondering if the doctor told me the side effects or if I purposefully ignored them all. Some pretty horrid side effects were possible. And I felt like listening to the podcast in 2021 I was hearing them for the very first time… I’m guessing I was 300 pounds of hyper-focused desperation who heard ONLY the phrase ‘you will lose tons of weight’ and ignored everything after that… Just a hunch. But a pretty good hunch.

Makes me sad for that younger version of me; I can see her pretty clearly and feel such compassion and sadness and grief for who I was and how much I HATED the body I was living in. It was ALL about thinness. Nothing else mattered. Being thin would fix everything. Being thinner would keep me from being bullied, would help me find a husband, have kids, BE HAPPY. I was so, so, so focused on thin being the cure-all that I probably a) blindly ignored warnings and/or b) brushed them off in favor of a desired outcome regardless of the outcome and/or c) in a deeply ironic way; traded a happy ‘now’ for any potential loss of quality of future life.

It was a fairly short-lived wave of sadness. Didn’t take me too long to re-orient to the present once the podcast was over. After all, I am a very different person today. Reflection is useful, yet I don’t want to get caught up and waste moments enjoying the life I have currently carved out and built. It was interesting that I could FINALLY look back on that past version of me and feel compassion, care, love and sadness and not shame, anger and disgust. Not that I needed it; yet ironclad proof that therapy works.

I’m really curious about anyone else who dabbled with Fen Phen and how you feel about it 30 years later… If you’re willing to share, I would love to hear your story.

BUMmer of a race. (Pun. It’s not depressing, it’s funny. Promise.)

View from my campsite. That tallest peak? That’s Shasta… She’s one of my all-time fav peaks.

I DNF’ed out of the SOB 50K this weekend. (DNF is Did Not Finish)

Normally dropping out of a race or somehow ‘falling short’ would send me into a bit of a funk. Not this time. Which was an unintended win given the crappy situation…. One of the things I’ve been working on is setting different goals around running so that this hobby/sport/activity I love stays part of the joy and doesn’t verge back into not-healthy, burned-out, punishment to keep my weight in check. I’ve DONE a lot of work around this and finally, finally love running again for it’s purest sense of simply moving my body and earning a sweat. I’m intentionally setting goals to support that direction. Not big sweeping goals anymore like ‘MUST. FINISH. RACE.’ more like ‘Keep a smile on your face, drink plenty of water, give this your best effort and thank all the volunteers.’ While I DNF’ed the distance, I did in fact nail my race specific goals in very short order.

I was excited for this race. SUPER excited to see my beloved trail family, spend time on world-class trails and have long-awaited catch-up conversations. And hugs. ALL THE HUGS. I was going to get to car camp for two days with a bunch of other runners; but specifically with my friends Jamie and Melissa. Jamie and I met on these trails, at this race almost eight years ago at a moment of struggle for both of us. Instant kinship. And we’ve grown our friendship since then. So this weekend/race/trails – the whole package is simply a sentimental favorite.

And 50K – this would be my longest distance in almost a year! I’ve been training and rebuilding my fitness and endurance. I was eager to see what my feet, legs and body could do.

I have written recently about starting back on Metformin/Glucophage to help my body with insulin regulation and insulin resistance. (Blog here.) It’s a medicine that is working really well for me in keeping my glucose lower and stable. One of the well documented and oft-lamented side effects of this drug is the ‘glucotrots’. Call it gastric distress, urgency, explosive diarrhea, the screaming shits — whatever you want to call it, it’s not a ton of fun. And it’s pretty common from all of the anecdotal data I’ve collected over the years. I suffer with the side effects for sure; but have gotten cagey and smart about timing things so it’s more annoying than anything. Most of the time. Many of the people I know on this med, do get used to it and learn to heed the bodies early warning signs. A few near-misses, or all-out misses, and you learn to pay attention to what your gut is telling you… Given how good the drug works to keep things stable and keep me healthy; for me the trade-off is worth it.

I’m new enough back onto this med and I’m brand new to RUNNING with this med on board. I wasn’t entirely sure how the med/running/poop combo would play out. In the back of my mind I knew I needed to be thinking about it. I mean, I know the day to day routine. I also know I am NOT afraid to poop in woods. I’m actually pretty talented at it given I have SO MUCH FREAKING PRACTICE over the years. But for a long distance race; I just didn’t know what the right thing was. I made my very best guess of withholding the drug for a day (not taking the morning of the race) thinking it would give my belly a break…

Whoa. NOT THE RIGHT CHOICE.

I don’t know what really happened or if it was simply a combo of factors. I don’t know if it was the heat, the stress/excitement, super low humidity, the disrupted sleep from car camping, the meds…. I do KNOW I was mentally excited, calm, well hydrated, and focused on staying in my routine for food. I follow the adage/warning/sage-advice of ‘nothing new on race day’. I mean, minus the med-juggling; I was ridiculously routine leading into this race. I got up race morning, had coffee and even got the coveted pre-race poop out of the way before I even pinned on my bib. ALL GOOD TO GO.

So I thought.

As with most lessons learned and interesting stories… Obviously something, somewhere went a wee bit sideways.

Start of the 100K race… And right after this were blissfully empty porta-potty lines. πŸ™‚

The 50K race started at 7 AM. I went slow at the back just to ease my nerves. The pressure I feel for people to pass me on tight single track – or worse make me feel like I need to speed up – is one of my least favorite things about racing. Luckily, it’s something I have pretty good ability to control; so I took control. I let them all get in front of me while we were running on some road prior to the single track. Turns out that was smart for a whole bunch of reasons.

About 1 mile in… YEAH… one freaking mile in…my belly does this ‘flop’. It’s alarmingly familiar and entirely unwelcome; It’s the glucotrot warning that my belly is getting upset and I should maybe/sorta/consider finding a bathroom in the next 2-3 minutes. 1 mile. Sheesh. And for those who know me… Yes I was mentally chuckling and thinking ‘are you shitting me?’.

I’ll spare you details; suffice it to say I ultimately squatted 4 times in 4 miles. This was going be a LOOOONNNNNGGGG 50K with that ratio. (50K is 31 miles…)

Bathroom with a view…

I got to the very first aid station and handed over my bib. I decided a few things during the four times I was digging catholes, hiding from other racers and contemplating my life choices….

  1. If I stopped now, loaded up my hydration pack with water and hiked it back in I could spare ANYONE else the issue of having to help get me back to my camping site. I was still close in at this point; it was hike-able. AND less people/race traffic so finding a spot to squat would be WAY LESS stressful.
  2. The goal for this race was to have fun. This situation was annoying and bothersome in the moment and it was 100% headed for dehydration/NO FUN in very short order. I could absolutely stop this potential dumpster fire before it became a warning label.
  3. It was HOT and I was already sweating heavily 3-4 miles in. Abnormal sweat volume for me given the effort I was putting forth. Between rampant diarrhea and heavy sweating there was NO POSSIBLE way for me to put in enough fluids to keep my system from crashing. My system in fact already firing off some pretty convincing warning shots.

So all by myself, with no input from anyone else and no second guessing; I made the choice to drop, hike back and begin to seek the humor in the crappy situation.

I should have had 9-10 hours on the trails, in the woods, earning my shower and being in the mountains; I got 2 hours instead.

But here’s the win in all of this; I’m not always smart when I’m determined. Stubbornness overrides smart decision making – it’s a family trait. This time I’m super proud that I could see that this just wasn’t the day to run long and made a not-fun decision with a happy heart and a clear mind. Some of it was experience. Some of it was simply respect for the volunteers who would be stuck helping me if I forced my way forward. But a large portion of it was making the decision based on the bigger goal of keeping running joyful and making sure I stay healthy enough to enjoy it.

I get back to the camping/start area and run into one of the Race Directors, and a friend, Rob Cain. When he sees me, he kind of waves his arms around and says ‘Betsy – what happened what are you doing back here so soon?” and I reply ‘Rob! My legs are good, my heart was willing, my mind was excited… And my butthole is EXHAUSTED.’ And we both laughed heartily. I’m still laughing truth be told.

I mean – it’s funny. It just is.

And it is the first time I can legit say I had a really crappy race and mean it.

(Ok my punny friends… I’m sure I missed a pile of great poop puns… Please share. πŸ™‚ )

One of my fav pics of the weekend.

10 years.

The view from the mountaintops will never get old. It’s a magical, lovely world to LOOK at the mountains and then be able to go and climb IN the mountains. Not gonna get old. Nope. No way. Even if {sometimes} I whine and complain en route to the top – the CLIMB is always worth the view. πŸ™‚

4th of July is a National Holiday, yet for the last decade it’s been a day of personal reflection; sometimes deep, sometimes simply grateful but always, always with a big dose of awe… 10 years ago I decided I was tired of controlling my inevitable death from Type 2 Diabetes and attendant complications. I was slowly marching to a grave. I knew it. Taking my prescribed drugs compliantly and not questioning alternatives. I was likely going to lose my feet/legs a piece at a time from our of control blood glucose and wind up crawling, not so much marching, towards that grave. I was resigned to the idea that it was my only choice.

Then July 2, 2011 I woke up and knew in my heart something was profoundly different… I woke up and decided I wanted to live. Whatever days I had left, whatever it looked like, I wanted. to. LIVE. No clue what it would look like to change my life; but game for the fight. I remember I woke up and felt this really odd feeling; iron-hot, fierce determination. I’d never felt it before. I didn’t know how in the hell I was going to make things different — I just knew I had to start flailing forward and figure it out as I went. I knew that where I was in that moment was NOT where I wanted to stay for even one more single day.

I changed everything. And still change things to keep moving toward the goal of being healthy. It turns out that there’s no real ‘finish line’ on this particular journey to health. Go figure. I started eating different, fought to get off meds, started lifting weights and moving more. I started losing weight and helping my body get more active, I got off meds. I’ve been diagnosed with and am in recovery treatment for an eating disorder. And while it’s never been linear or simple – it’s been worth it all. Countless of other great, amazing, wonderful things have graced my life since July 2011.

I stopped giving up on myself and stayed focus on ‘the next right thing’ that would help me continue to live this new-found, med-free, active life.

Life has given me ten years I never thought I would have. Endless awe and gratitude. I have been given a second chance and I don’t think I’ve wasted a single day. I’m living a life I couldn’t think big enough to even dream about. I’ve become a runner. I published a book. I’m in a job I love. I work as a health coach. I have amazing friends in the trail/ultra community. I have a 100 mile finisher buckle. Like… NONE of that was on my radar 10 years ago when I was struggling to figure out how to not die. I was in a body that couldn’t do the things I wanted to do. I was on a ton of pharmaceutical interventions. I was uncomfortable and sick and felt deeply hopeless about the mess I was in with Type 2 Diabetes. And now…. I’m not. I still have to fight for my health each and every day. Yet, I’m alive and healthy and active and deeply grateful for this life I get to live every single day.

I am very grateful for these 10 glorious years I might not have had any other way.

Meds (Take 2…)

(GOOD numbers! 5/1/21 with 500 mg Glucophage.)

I’m back on a low dose of a type 2 diabetes med.

It sucks to have to admit that the YEARS of lifestyle changes I’ve made and adhered to just weren’t enough for this stage of life.

I’ve talked for years about working so hard to get off of meds. And I have spent 8+ years backing it up with a lot of hard work to stay off meds. I had some major heartburn along with a few tears, over having landed back in the land of pharmaceuticals. I feel like a failure on some level. Yet I’m not dumb. I don’t want to die or loose limbs or suffer organ failure and I KNOW that’s the possible result if I continue to deny the situation. And throw in that I did a whole lot of damage for many years. As my friends who were there 10 years ago remind me: I was warned that if I could get off of all the meds and embrace a different lifestyle; at some point meds might still have to be re-introduced.

It appears that now is that time.

Hello again. (I’m saying that in a flat, unenthusiastic, bored-teenager tone…)

I held my own for a long time. Eight years give or take. Got off meds and stayed off meds. Then menopause hit. Perimenopause to be precise. It hit me hard, backed over me, peered out the window and ran over me again just for good measure. In doing some research I’ve learned glucose resistance is common for women during this stage. I’m metabolically messed up anyway… So… I have to be extra careful and mindful. It has been increasingly obvious that I wasn’t going to wait this out with familiar tactics and tools.

(Crappola lines and numbers. 3/27/21)

After some stalling and hand-wringing, I went to the doc to ask for help taking action before things got totally out of hand. I knew – thanks to my trusty Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) that my numbers were not great. You want that line FLAT and low as much of the time as possible. Bloodwork backed up my concern that things weren’t where I wanted them. I was doing everything I knew to do, everything that had worked up to this point. Exercising, lifting weights, sleeping, drinking lots of water, no alcohol, low carb/healthy fat foods, trying to limit stress. That line should have responded by flattening out and laying low. It stayed jagged with random big spikes.

We talked about all the options and decided we could do one of two things; let me keep doing the things I was doing and see what happened or we could introduce a little pharmaceutical assistance and see if my body appreciated the help.

It was up to me.

I opted for some help.

My body REALLY appreciates the medical assist. I need some help to get through menopause and not fall neck deep back into full-blown type 2 diabetes. Three weeks on the new med and I have good numbers and feel so much better. It was the right thing to do.

I keep thinking about the fable of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’. I was that character for oh-so-many years. For decades I would go to docs overweight, miserable, escalating health issues and totally unwilling to change. They would ask about my health habits and I would lie. To their faces. I would lie. I would plead with them to give me a magic bullet or cure me or solve the problem. The part I never voiced out loud was that I didn’t want to have to do any work. I wanted something to magically fix me and I thought that if I told them again and again that I was doing everything and I needed help – they would finally stop making me work at helping myself and they would just FIX IT.

That’s not how it works. Especially when there are some much bigger/deeper issues at the core.

Shame. SO, so much shame and wildly ineffective coping mechanisms for dealing with it. It kept me from taking action and making changes for years. I would tell docs I was doing ‘everything I could’ and leave their appointment and cruise through a drive-through to drown the shame in a value meal… I was binge eating and hiding it. I was not exercising. I was not being compliant with meds/protocols. I didn’t know how good life could be running and adventuring and being healthy — I thought the only thing that could provide that kind of comfort was food… Took a really good therapist to help me begin to untangle that mess.

Fast forward: I found health, therapy and life. It’s a long story. You can buy the book. Literally. πŸ™‚

Now I’ve been sitting in a docs office telling her I am doing everything I can. And I need help. I became uncomfortably aware of all the times I had said those words to health professionals and NOT MEANT THEM. And I’m proud of myself for being brutally honest and upfront and battling the shame this time. This time I really genuinely meant them.

I’m on 500 mg of Glucophage. It’s a medication I know well. It’s meant to be combined with lifestyle changes. It does have some side effects; gastrointestinal ickiness. Still doing ALL the things I was doing to help myself and getting a little medical assistance to get my numbers to go/stay low.

It is working.

I am proud of myself for knowing when to ask for help. I’m proud of myself for taking the help even though I was also battling the feelings of taking a BIG ASS STUMBLING STEP BACKWARDS. I vowed when I made all of those changes almost a decade ago that I would try to do the right thing for my health moving forward. And I am keeping that promise to myself. Even with some mixed emotions about having to swallow a pill; this is in fact the very right thing for right now.

Laughter is damn good medicine.

My momma used to say ‘you better be able to laugh at yourself, cause others certainly will.’ And she didn’t mean it in the ‘get yourself some confidence and have a spine and who cares what the world thinks’ if you knew my kind-hearted, loving, gentle momma she meant it in the ‘life is funny and laughing is fun and just lighten up – life is way, way, way too short to be taking yourself so seriously’…. I have found laughter to be healing, provide peace and disarm even the grumpiest of people at times.

‘A wonderful thing about trueΒ laughterΒ is that it just destroys any kind of system of dividing people.” –John Cleese.

I’m a BIG fan of laughter. And I swear the older I get the more I have to laugh at myself in regards to my what-the-hell-happened-to-my-memory or no-filter-thinking or crappola eyesight. Having the privilege of living into my 50’s — there is simply some funny shit that happens with age.

So with that set-up… Let me tell you about a recent trail episode.

It was cold and still icey in places from a recent snow/thaw. My running friend and I are doing this local 2.5 mile climb up a place I love to run called Cline Buttes. It’s a fire road/bike trails with a 1,000 foot hill. We tackle it each week; on the same day and keep track of our times. We’re aiming to be fast badasses and we’re working on it one step at a time. Right now I’m less ‘fast badass’ and more ‘just don’t stop hiking until you hit the top no matter how slow you go’. (Side-note; you can in fact go so slow that your trusty and beloved GPS watch asks if you still want to be recording this ‘run’ or are you done? Fact.)

Anyway, we focus on hiking up this hill to get to the gate. There’s a gate to a utility road/cell tower enclosure at the top; we hike up as hard as we can, tap the gate, turnaround and run back down. Some version of that is the weekly goal. We’re trying to hike harder and run faster. Simple. HARD as hell, but simple and rewarding to gauge progress each week.

Running back down, every so often on the downhill one of us has to stop and pee. Trail running? No problem. Check for other peeps. Hike 10 feet off. Face your bum away from potential oncoming traffic. Squat. Resume running. SIMPLE.

This time descending off the hill I decide that if I take any more running steps I’m going to pee my pants. There’s no waiting this one out until I get back home. So I tell my partner ‘Hey… I know we’re on a bit of a sidehill, but I really have to pee. Gonna climb over that discarded corrugated/culvert pipe over there on the side of the road and be right back.’ It seemed like as good a place to ‘hide’ as possible given the hill, potential bike traffic that sneaks up on you. Plus I am a SUPER speedy pee-er. Like – peeing on trail has to be close to a super power for me. I’m good. Really good. But I digress.

Remember I said it was icy?And we’re on a fairly steep side hill? Right?

As I step off the road and I am on a downhill sloped patch, JUST ABOUT to straddle the discarded culvert pipe which is at least 3 feet round… My running partner YELLS ‘BETSY. WILD ANIMALS!’

I stop mid-straddle, whip around to see what in the holy hell she is yelling about…

That quick turn threw me off balance on the hill. My only-planted foot slips on ice.

I go ass-over-tea-kettle over the frozen, slippery pipe. Like, in my mind, it was almost competitive gymnasts quality mid-air, somersault.

A really convenient and soft patch of unmelted snow breaks my downhill fall and keeps me from rolling the 2.4 miles downhill to my car.

I am so startled to find myself on the ground, I pee my pants.

I hop up as quick as I can trying to do a simultaneous pat down to make sure I’m not broken or bleeding AND keep from falling back down the steep side hill AND I’m also frantically looking around for a tyrannosaurus rex or cougar or polar bear.

I turn to my friend who has a totally shocked look on her face and I’m staring at her, mouth soundlessly agape and waving my arms around wildly like ‘WHAT ANIMALS? DO WE HAVE TO RUN FOR OUR LIVES?” and she says ‘uh… I thought maybe an animal had taken up residence in that discarded pipe and you should be careful not to disturb them.’

We stared at each other for about 5 seconds. I said something really smooth like ‘I PISSED MYSELF’. And we both started to laugh.

We laughed so hard that she finally sat on the ground. The next day my ribs were sore from laughing so hard.

We laughed for probably a full 5 minutes. At some point she asks ‘are you OK?’ and it was WELL after we’d laughed and tried to stop laughing multiple times. I said ‘yeah. I’m good. (sarcastic font) Thanks for asking me NOW.’ That launched another fit of laughter.

The worst that happened was I peed my pants. Not the first nor the last time that’s gonna happen. And to be honest, it’s why I wear exclusively black tights for running. I learned that lesson EARLY on; with black leggings/tights no one can EVER tell. πŸ™‚

The best part? A deep and happily exhausting belly laugh with a friend and another great trail story to tell.

Laughter is in fact good medicine. (Even the Mayo Clinic says so. )

Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)

I’ve been using a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) for over a year now to help me keep type 2 diabetes at bay. I knew it was an amazing tool at the start, but a year of steady use and I can happily and without exaggeration say….

It is life changing.

Being able to contrast life trying to reverse type 2 diabetes 8 years ago using meds/insulin/finger-sticks/blood tests with staying healthy eating low carbohydrate and right now having a gadget to give me real-time feedback about my choices with the swipe of my phone…. More than a few times I’ve had deep, grateful moments of realizing I have instant info and can take action to make things different. Right now! HOLY SMOKES! That feedback and implementing those changes in the past would have taken MONTHS of waiting and follow-up blood tests and endless finger sticks to basically GUESS at a next best direction.

It’s a small ‘button’ I wear on the back of my arm for 2 weeks at a time. It collects data 24/7. When the two weeks are up, the app warns me – and I insert/attach a new one to the other arm… SMALL, tiny, flex-tubing inserts in my arm. DOES NOT hurt, I barely feel it or notice it at all. PROMISE.

I can instantly scan the ‘button’ with the app on my phone and get information 24/7 about what’s going on in my body.

Happy to see the entire line in the green bar… That’s my goal! STAY IN THE GREEN!

I can tell how stress, sleep, activity, food are all impacting my glucose. Hell – I can tell when I am starting to get sick or accidentally got some sugar in food.

ShingRx shot threw my body for a loop. Wasn’t just my imagination — we could SEE it….

It’s an awesome, unobtrusive ‘detective’ sitting passively on my arm and collecting data for me! It allows me to make the ‘next best choice’ and take action for my own health. Over short periods of time I can use the information it provides to figure out what works best for ME. {Obligatory reminder… This little gem of a tool is in addition to regular health care. It is NOT a replacement for regular visits and care.}

I am metabolically – pick your favorite word – deranged/damaged/fragile. I did years and years of ‘training’ my body to work and respond in a certain way. That’s the nice way to say my lifestyle and food choices did some hefty damage. Now I get to live a slightly different life than the normal person to stay my healthy best and off meds. I now have this great tool that gives me positive reinforcement and helps me answer questions in real time about me and my body and how it reacts to what I do/put in my body.

You want a concrete, personal example of what’s different for me? I aim to keep my glucose readings to stay from 80-120 mg/dL (The green stripe on the screen shot above). I work to keep it ‘between the lines’. It would be amazing if I could keep it at 80 mg/dL around the clock. But bodies, life and glucose don’t work that way. πŸ™‚ I took insulin and meds for years. Now I don’t. I would love to never, ever have to take any of them again. So, given that Type 2 Diabetes is largely a lifestyle disease – the results rest in large part on me and my day-by-day choices and habits. I use food and activity to control my health and stay out of the diabetic range. So for me, I try to move 6 days a week with sweat and intention. I try to keep my net carbs at/below 50 grams a day. THAT seems to be the sweet spot my body works at and responds to the best. I now know all of this life-changing information because I have a year of working with a CGM. The combination mentioned above is what gives me consistently good readings. πŸ™‚

I do pay out of pocket for this sucker. Insurance companies don’t want to pay for prevention. (Yes… I’m sitting here cussing about that like I do on the regular…) Yet I am lucky that I can find some creative ways to make it work because a year into using this device I KNOW I can take smart, educated, fast choices for my own best long-term health. I would encourage anyone who knows that they have a pre-diabetes/diabetes diagnosis or one they suspect a diagnosis is looming around the bend to think about asking your Doc to prescribe one of these. This could be the tool that helps you avoid that specific and dangerous footpath and puts you back on a health track. If you’re pondering it, wondering about it all – please reach out! I’m happy to talk about any/all of it. I was a skeptic. I wasn’t sure it could help me. I thought it would be a pain in the ass or wouldn’t be accurate or would hurt 24/7…. But a year into using it I have too much hard evidence that this thing is helping me make sustainable, healthy changes that work specifically (and maybe only!) for ME. It’s not a mass-market diet or silver bullet or cure-all; but it’s one hell of a tool to help you find your best long-term health.

Special thanks to Dr. Mark Cucuzzella and Christina van Hilst, DNP with the West Virginia University Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Health for the help and guidance in this whole year-long process. If you are interested in using this technology reach out to their center at 304-596-5038.

Ode to a visor. {My hair can be an asshole at times.}

WIND was ferocious at the top. ‘Can I take a picture?’ ‘Yeah but HURRY UP.’ We climbed, we photo’d, we skedaddled back down.

I always chuckle to myself when people ask me about the epic views I get to see hiking/running in and around the amazing Cascade Range of Oregon. I nod and say yes, nature is in fact glorious. She doesn’t have a bad view.. Cause, I mean c’mon…

But I chuckle because… THIS… This is my reality. This is what I saw for 3+ hours today.

THIS is what I look at on the day-to-day when I’m training to do a trail race/event. I live in Bend and have access to amazing outdoor spaces. I treasure every minute I get to be outside. Yet, views from the mountain top aren’t what it’s all about for me. I honestly have just as much love and appreciation for being able to watch the ground move and change under my feet for hours on end. I may not be able to reliably identify a mountain peak, but I can often tell you precisely about rocks, mud, ditches and downed logs on local trails.

I think both the view and the journey are deeply rewarding.

One of my favorite memories from my 100 miler was at the finish line of Mountain Lakes 100. It boasts that runners pass 25 mountain lakes on this jaw-droppingly scenic course. He’s my friend now, but it was Colton’s first 100 mile finish too and at that time I only knew we were both now 100 mile FINISHERS. His parents were there to support and crew. We were all milling around the finish area, limping, whimpering, trying to figure out what in the hell had just happened to us after almost 30 hours of moving. I hear his mom say ‘Colton, were the lakes beautiful?’ and Colton’s reply with much exhaustion and a big fat bold question mark was ‘there were lakes?’

I remember that I laughed and butted in to say ‘I didn’t see any lakes either!’

I wear a visor for a variety of obvious, functional reasons; but it’s also a physical blinder to keep me focused on taking one step at a time. If I’m tackling something tough, I tend to do best if I can focus on the 8-10 feet directly in front of me. NOT the big picture. Not the people around me. Not what’s halfway up the hill and still distressingly *insert whining* FAR AWAY…. I do really well if I focus on where I’m going to put my foot in the very next step. Then the next. Repeat over and over and over again.

And I love a good visor for other reasons too. I mean, beyond the fact that my big head doesn’t fit in most hats AND then add in my hair… Lordy. My hair. She has her own zip code. My hair can be an asshole to be honest. I learned early on in my running adventures that a visor meant I didn’t have to try to control that mess on top of my head, no headache and I got all of the other benefits on top of being a tool to keep me focused on the work needed in the moment.

Once I have my running shoes on, my hydration pack, gloves, whatever else… The visor is usually the last thing I put on before we head out. I put my head in a natural, comfortable position and put the visor on carefully so that my view is very purposely restricted to what’s directly in front of me. I only want to be able to see 8-10 feet right off my toes. For good reason. Today’s challenge was trying to get up and down Gray Butte. One step at a time. I knew I needed to focus.

We’re about 2.5 miles in at this point in the picture and I want to go to the top, near that tower…

For two+ hours of climbing THIS was the my view from under the edge of my trusty visor…. While I worked to reach the top of hill.

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We hit the trailhead, I get ready at the car. I try to do the same things in the same order – so nothing gets forgotten. I tie my shoes, make sure I have everything in my hydration vest pocket-by-pocket and put my visor on. While I’m going through that comforting routine of getting ready for a harder effort – I’m also mentally giving myself a pep talk, setting the stage for how I want to ‘show up’ for the run. Today it was these three points:

  • Stay in your lane Hartley. Doesn’t matter what ANYONE else is doing out there today. Comparison is NOT your friend. Give it YOUR best.
  • One foot in front of the other is the ONLY way to get there.
  • Don’t get lost.

Then we head out.

One foot in front of the other. Giving it my best.

Looking at the 10 feet of earth off of the tip of my shoe for where to step and land and push. I glance up from under the visor every few strides to make sure I’m roughly on the trail and headed toward the top.

Moving forward. Picking my next best step. Trying to reach the edge of the 10 feet my visor gives me, so I can check out the next 10 feet to cover .

Savoring the view of the ground while continually moving forward and eyeing the horizon. Who says we can’t have it all?

Chafing.

In ultra running there is a basic understanding that you are going to suffer.

One of the keys to doing these endurance events, and enjoying them, is learning how to suffer. Our miles and hours of training aren’t just about physically preparing for these adventures, terrains and distances; it’s also about getting our mind ready to go along for the trip and be ON OUR side. So, we do things like run back-to-back long runs on really tired legs to learn what suffering feels like. By running through it we learn we can push through so many perceived physical limitations that our mind throws down in front of us.

And then, well, then there’s unnecessary suffering. Suffering that simply becomes those classic and indelible lessons in ‘Yo! pay attention! Let’s try to not freaking do that again…’ Sometimes it’s the weather, or a trip-and-crash-on-your-face, poor navigation, equipment malfunction, Mother Nature’s obstacles and then there’s…

Chafing.

Chafing is one of those lessons that I (we) learn, then re-learn and eventually laugh at the ridiculousness of re-learning yet again. Some chafing you know is going to happen – and you use your Squirrel’s Nut Butter (SNB) slathered on to prevent it. Some you can feel as it’s happening and maybe even do something to cut it short. Some chafing you only discover in the shower. I’ve shrieked and squalled a time or two (200?) when water hits chafe I didn’t know was there. I’ve hesitated getting in the shower KNOWING when water hits the sore spot it’s gonna be a stinging, searing pain in the butt. (Not really a pun… More like an admission…)

Chafe sucks.

So this past weekend I was wearing some 3-year old trusty running tights that have been faithful companions on many runs/hikes and are still in visibly good shape. I put them on in the morning and thought they were feeling a little crooked in the crotch. But hey, it was early in the morning, I hadn’t had much coffee and I figured I would adjust things at the trailhead when we started. In the very back of my coffee-deprived brain I thought it wasn’t the best plan. I had a vague recollection of maybe having been in this situation before and wishing I had just shucked them and picked another pair of running tights… But these had never betrayed me before. I was pretty sure it would be OK.

I knew within the first two miles that they were going to maybe/sorta cause problems. Manageable stuff, but still – they were gonna be trouble.

About 4 miles in on a 16 mile day they started to chafe me. It was raining lightly and I could feel water running down my back so I knew chafing was likely going to happen no matter what. But I could also feel the sweat and water running down my butt crack – and my capris were getting soaked…And the chafing that started prior to the rain falling, was building …. um…. navel to ass crack.

I carry a small container of body lube with me for such instances. Almost all runners do. And trust me we can also get WILDLY creative with ANYTHING in our pack if we can’t find our lube… (Pro tip: Don’t use any kind of lube/chapstick/tube-of-anything from any other runners pack… You’ve been warned.) But this time – I had a small tub of SNB and I used the whole thing. I kept adjusting things trying to find the spot where the seam wouldn’t cut me in half. About 10 miles in I knew the chafing was going to be scream-producing at shower time. It was bad and getting worse. And we had miles to go… It was funny. I mean, if you can’t laugh at yourself — others will. Hell… My trail partners will laugh at me whether I laugh at myself or not. But I was trying to find a way to limit the carnage from those stupid tights as we moved along…. At one point I was calculating ripping my pants off and walking out of the wilderness pants-less except I was pretty sure that was a misdemeanor with like a $5,000 fine and maybe a lifetime ban from national forests….

I kept thinking there is a lesson in preventing some levels of suffering and yet there is learning in all suffering…. Which means I was technically winning (*cough*, *cough*) either way.

So back to my initial comment; we learn to suffer. Some of us seem to have a better ability to manage it, some of us have to really learn how to keep going even with our brain screaming at us to STOP. Running oh-so often provides lessons that apply well beyond the trail if we pay attention. One of the many, many reasons I love running.

Beyond chafing this was also one of those life-reminders that we need from time to time that sometimes we simply have to trust our gut. I knew something was just NOT RIGHT, right at the start. I knew the second I put those tights on that our years together were at an end. They felt scratchy and off and crooked. I wanted to trust, and I was wrong to ignore my gut that was saying the trust was lazy or misplaced or optimistic. Twenty-four hours post-run I was still walking around with a very wide-legged stance and sitting gingerly and laughing and grimacing.

The irony in all of this — is that all the training I’ve done to learn to suffer is part of what got me through this entirely avoidable situation. I mean let’s be honest, there are so many other chances to learn to suffer in our world, that fighting your tights shouldn’t be one of those lessons.

Mending a friendship.

Middle Sister, Pacific Crest Trail, Three Sisters Wilderness. Picture: Michelle Thompson

I ran and hiked 34 miles (52K) last Wednesday for my 52nd birthday. This was my first ultra distance adventure since the end of 2017. Five day after the run I’m still avoiding stairs and in the process of losing a few toenails, yet I am also enjoying a huge sense of accomplishment and feeling like I have welcomed back a long-lost friend.

November of 2017 I sought treatment for Binge Eating Disorder (BED). I had a lifetime of weird habits, horribly convoluted relationships with food, distorted body image and non-existent emotional coping skills. Yet I never knew it had an actual name. It does. Or that other people suffered like I did. They do. Or that it could be successfully treated. It can. I thought it was just me and I was ‘broken’ and food was an adversary I would fight my entire life. I would soon learn that for me, BED wasn’t actually even about food at all. I had developed ALL kinds of ways to deny, hide, manage the problem. (Blog here)

I had to take some important steps right off the bat. One of those steps was that I needed to back off of running. Running and coping and food were ALL tangled up and confused in my mind. In the desperation to hide what I couldn’t name, but absolutely knew was not normal, I had somehow turned running into a weapon. Pretty much overnight running went from being a friend to being an enemy.

To start the healing – I had to break those convoluted relationships up. It tossed ALL the things in my still-mostly-new-to-me healthy life into wild disorder. The only way I thought I knew to manage my weight and blood glucose was through running. with running in a greatly reduced role, I instantly started gaining weight and had to really watch my glucose readings as I learn how to manage these relationships independently. As someone who’d lost significant weight and gained an abundance of health through running; it was terrifying for me to grapple with running NOT being part of my life. And while I missed running, oddly I also started to fear, dislike, not trust running because it would trigger intense binging urges…

Ugh.

It’s been the past 6-8 months where I finally started to understand all the parts of the work I am doing were finally coming together; I was healing and getting stronger and even I could see it.

Time to hit the trails.

I stepped onto the dirt last Wednesday morning at 5 AM, headlamp blazing, with my friend Michelle Thompson, to leg out 34 miles (a course designed by Michelle). I wanted to see if I’d done enough work that running could be back in my life and not be a trigger for the eating disorder. And let’s face it; I’m 52 and if I’d clung to my old habits I wouldn’t even be alive to try this crazy experiment. And I know that. So I simply enjoy the hell out of each year that I get to celebrate being another year older. So this year we ran in the mountains. Climbing hills and crossing water. Stopping in our tracks to look at toads, rock formations, animal tracks (cougar!), flowers, wildfire burn scars and mountain peaks that are some of the prettiest in the whole world. Peeing in the woods – and in my own shoe at mile 3. Filtering our own water. Laughing, joking, crying and sharing trail-time with a soul-sister. Meeting friends at the end who came to cheer on the adventure. It was a magical day. Sitting here 4-5 days post-run when the binge urges would normally be active and showing themselves in full force; there’s only sore muscles, black toenails and some pretty soul-deep peace and calm. And I’m so happy to be feeling these feelings.

This was a carefully considered experiment with running to see if I could put all the pieces together and if we could all be friends again.

It really was a reunion of sorts.

A very happy reunion.

{Important note; as I worked toward this ‘experiment’ and continue to work to bring running back to a healthy spot in my life, my therapist is supportive and fully aware of what I’m doing.}

In the midst of COVID-19 things have gotten worse for those with previously stable eating disorders (here). I kept hearing anecdotal stories from friends about how their ED’s were out of control. I knew I was battling it as well. Some people are learning about eating disorders for the very first time.

You are not alone. No matter how twisted your world is with food/activity; you are NOT alone. Click here for resources that are free or low cost.

There is hope and help. You can heal from eating disorders.

South Sister, Pacific Crest Trail, Three Sisters Wilderness. Picture; Michelle Thompson

Obesity and COVID-19.

I have a big space in my heart for those who are learning to be active, and those living with type 2 diabetes and obesity. I was firmly in those worlds for decades; I know the fear, shame, challenges. I also know how much it meant to be surrounded by people who believed I could change. Day by day, it would still take years find health and they stood with me.

It was a huge mountain.

I want to repay that stalwart kindness and collective support by helping others. Helping others understand that breaking out of those dangerous, non-linear ‘health holes’ is worth every single drop of sweat, every tear, setbacks and sore muscles. Health, not weight is what I focus on as a person and as health coach.

Social media has undeniably been a significant tool in connecting me to the people who want help and those who work to help others. I have been off of social media for 100+/- days now. (Blog here…) I was pretty content to stay away. The recent headlines and conversations surrounding obesity/COVID-19 have me re-thinking my self-imposed social media ban and how I really desire to be part of these growing and on-going conversations.

Even being surprised, like everyone else, by the daily developments in our world I still found myself shocked and upset to see obesity grabbing some of the current headlines and a jarring one at that:

Obesity puts you at greater risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.(Study here explains the details of why.)

Obesity with a side of panic and public shaming. A not-at-all-awesome combination.

Early in the pandemic response; the fat-shaming was driving me a wee bit cray-cray. ‘The mask isn’t for COVID-19 it’s for the dreaded COVID-19 POUNDS….’ comments/memes. As if the worst thing that COVID-19 could dish out was some weight gain. For those with shame around their bodies, eating disorders, body dysmorphia or even teeter-tottering self confidence those messages aren’t helpful. They become hyper-amplified with the fear and panic surrounding the pandemic responses. None of it is funny or harmless. Those of us who align with various ideologies around fat and health are familiar with ‘nothing is worse than being fat’ mentalities, jabs and jokes. Sadly familiar ground for some of us.

Then things escalated.

I struggled writing this blog. What has been largely personal and private battles for individual health has become a matter of increasingly urgent public health discussions. It felt like it was a slow burn when it was ‘just’ an obesity epidemic and now it’s full throttle as COVID-19 pushed the additional perils of obesity to a new forefront. People assume they can look at you and know what you eat, how much you move, what health issues you may or may not have. Public comment and scrutiny like never before. Meanwhile obesity can not be resolved with an overnight magic bullet so those living with it can only take baby steps to change their life and health outcomes. Shame and panic have never worked to help people make lasting changes.

If you’ve missed them; here are the headlines…

‘Having obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above, increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.’ (CDC)

‘An estimated 160 million Americans are either obese or overweight. Nearly three-quarters of American men and more than 60% of women are obese or overweight. These are also major challenges for America’s children – nearly 30% of boys and girls under age 20 are either obese or overweight, up from 19% in 1980′ (Source: IHME)

‘National surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.’ (source NEDA)

People who are obese are in greater danger of being more ill/dying with COVID-19.

The personal layer that I’m aware of for myself and many others, and can not be ignored, is that woven into the mix is Eating Disorders (ED)… In elevating this conversation to a very public forum, where everyone can comment and opine, we’re inadvertently pushing into the world of ED’s as well. And in my opinion, obesity and ED’s are not something you can simply untangle or isolate or easily explain and throw COVID-19 into the mix and you have a bonafide shitstorm. This is a twisted and difficult but excellent time to help with some public education and stigma-breaking. I don’t have the answers, but I can’t ignore that the conversations happening are really important for us to be having.

Prevention of being infected with the virus is the key for all of us. Attention to improving overall/general health markers and being at a healthy weight is also important for at least 160 million of us. Suddenly what most of us were able to manage as a more personal shame/issue/problem or at least as a ‘local’ problem that only involved those who physically interacted with us is now very PUBLIC and callously and carelessly being discussed ‘about’ us. Piling shame on shame never helped anyone heal or grab hold of new habits or feel good about the slow, baby steps they’re taking to head in a new life direction.

I too am confused. And scared. I’m wondering what to think and who to believe and how to help those who need help. Meanwhile I have to work hard to stay focused on balancing my own mental wellness while living in a body that is healthy and yet looks visibly overweight…

How do we publicly talk about health and obesity without shaming those who struggle? That’s the core issue I am interested in. COVID-19 adds another urgent health layer on top of a really complicated problem. I don’t have answers, but I have ears and a willing spirit and I’m not afraid of the tough conversations or the hard work.

And I know, from hard-fought personal experience, that the view from the top of the mountain is always worth the climb, no matter how long it takes. And this is one hell of a mountain…