Endometrium what?

So today was the day of my big ERA test at the clinic. I was bracing myself for what would be 5 to 10 seconds of extreme pain. The clinical assistant had warned me that it would feel like “a very intense cramp for a few seconds, but then it would be over.” And so I knew that today was not going to be fun. They’re also taking a biopsy of my endometrium to check to ensure I do not have endometritis, which is an inflammation of the endometrium that can make an embryo transfer difficult. If I have it, the nurse said the fix would be easy — just a course of oral antibiotics.

The doctor came in with a nurse assistant and said that he was really excited about this menstural cycle for me because everything looked as good as it could possibly look: all my hormone levels were progressing as expected and hoped, plus the lining of my uterus was over the ideal level of thickness; he anticipates we’ll have a smooth transfer assuming this ERA test goes well.

“Excited,” huh? I’m not sure how “exciting” any of this is. That’s a funny word to use in the world of IVF.

So, he stuck the speculum into my vagina, and then took his instrument to remove a biopsy of my endometrium. He gave me a verbal head’s up when the “unpleasant” feeling would begin. It lasted less than 5-6 seconds, but it felt like a very, very intense menstrual cramp. And when he removed the speculum and said we were all set, I felt a combination of feverish hot flashes wash all over me. I could feel my face flushing. He suggested I lie down for a bit before getting dressed to leave. Even though he had removed the speculum already, it still felt like there was something down there, still inside of me, for at least a few minutes after.

The nurse stayed with me for about five minutes. They usually stay with you after this procedure for a bit to monitor you until you seem more composed… in the event that you may pass out and lose consciousness. She made some small talk with me and said that this ERA procedure went really well, as it was super quick; in some women’s cases, the doctor is not able to get to the right angle of the endometrium, so he actually has to go in a few more times after that, resulting in prolonged pain and even worse cramps for the woman. She also said that most women actually scream or moan or even cry when an ERA is done. “You handled this really well!” she said, smiling. My eyes widened. Thank GOD that was not me today!

After getting dressed, I still felt like I was having hot flashes and felt a bit dizzy and light-headed, but I thought that maybe walking in the cold would do me a little good. I walked for about four blocks to get some fresh air and then called an Uber to drive me home.

On the short 5-minute ride home, all I could think was…. “The shit I’ve had to do to just try and get pregnant. Please, God, make this all worth it…..”

Resistance training for fat loss

I am not sure why, but in the last few YouTube videos I’ve been watching, the ads that I’ve been getting served have talked about the importance of resistance training, how running miles and miles on the treadmill will not result in weight loss and is simply a wasted effort (that last part is actually not always true for many of us, self included, but sure, you market you). Ever since I started regularly exercising in college and trying different workout regimens, I’ve always incorporated some sort of resistance training into my routine. This is no secret and is not up for debate: resistance training improves both strength and endurance. It also helps with losing excess body fat. And if you have a mesomorph body type like me, and if you use your own body weight (crunches, planks, lunges) vs. free weights, then you can build strength and definition without getting too bulky.

Oddly enough, while thinking about this annoying, recurring YouTube commercial, and while doing an interval run on the treadmill the other day, I thought about a former boyfriend who had once been, in his teens to early twenties, legitimately obese. When he showed me photos of how large he was, I was in complete disbelief. Granted, when I met him, he wasn’t the skinniest or most muscle defined guy, but he was FAR from obese. He lost a lot of that excess weight by running and working out on an elliptical (in addition to cutting his meal portions), but he had never really incorporated any resistance training into his workout routine. As a result of a lack of resistance training, he had a lot of flab around his stomach and love handles that … to put it bluntly, would literally just hang there. And it was NOT attractive.

I suggested to him several times that he try to do some form of resistance or strength training to lose it, that he needed to do more than pure cardio exercises as his 3-4x per week workout routine, but he insisted it wasn’t necessary. “It’s just excess skin,” he’d say defensively, and insist it wasn’t actually fat at all.

Well, that never worked — the polite suggestions or the relationship. He ended up gaining a lot of weight towards the end of our relationship. When I suggested that he try to lose it (this was mostly caused by stress and overeating as a result of stress from work), he said he didn’t feel like I was “accepting him for who he was” (no, that’s not the way I operate. It’s called tough love, idiots. We’re supposed to be striving to be the best version of ourselves, and that was NOT the best version of himself). And I found it completely unattractive and frustrating that he wouldn’t listen to me when I shared a very basic exercise fact that is known by pretty much ANYONE who does ANY form of exercise.

I’m not sure why I was reminded of him when reflecting on this commercial or while running on the treadmill. It was just a passing thought that came to mind. We all have different views and insecurities when it comes to diet and exercise, but to deny a basic fact about exercise seemed pretty ridiculous.

Dylan McKay is gone

We learned the news today that Luke Perry, the actor who played Dylan McKay in the series Beverly Hills 90210, had passed away from a stroke at age 52. While we often hear news of the passing of many celebrities pretty much every single day, this was so sad given that Ed and I used to watch 90210 nearly religiously. When I think of Dylan McKay, he kind of feels like a classmate or friend who I knew and was acquainted with as a child and a teenager. That’s how much I watched that show, and that’s how close I felt to certain characters in that show.

If Ed were still here and heard this news, he’d probably be devastated. Any time a celebrity or someone we knew died, he would contemplate it long and hard. He’d wonder how an actor so young, at only 52, could die from a stroke.

Then again, how could someone so young like my brother at age 33 die…?

Health and fitness gratitude

It’s been nearly four straight weeks of working out at least 4 times a week, and my body feels really good. I’ve been starting and ending the day with stretching, and doing different workouts with my Aaptiv app to keep me motivated. Every time a workout ends these days, I feel really grateful and relieved… mostly because I know how painful and frustrating getting injured can be given the last two injuries I’ve recently had, and I hated the feeling so much — being powerless, having to wait who-knows-how-long before I would be healthy enough to properly exercise again. Every morning felt like a gamble: would my hamstring still feel tight? Would I still feel pain in my lower back? Please, pain, go away!

The experiences of getting injured recently have made me feel even more gratitude in the mornings when I wake up and feel 100 percent healthy enough to exercise, to go through my everyday motions and not feel constrained by any means at all. I can lift and carry whatever I want, get on a stool and feel steady, and not really have to worry about anything. This was not always the case in the last few months. I just felt so happy the last few weeks ending my workouts and thinking, I did my daily exercise. I didn’t get injured. I am in good health. I feel good. 

As human beings, we tend to take what seems to be the most basic things for granted. But the last few weeks, I have woken up especially grateful, honestly in a way basking in the fact that I am so lucky and fortunate to have the good health and fitness level that I do, and that I feel comfortable and confident in my own skin. Gratitude is the hallmark of happiness, as they always say.

Beautiful and green Vancouver and food “labels”

Three years ago when my parents, Chris, and I came to Vancouver for the first time, I was completely in love. This city, with its beautiful harbour, lush green parks, shiny new buildings, proximity to mountains, forests, and beaches — was like an urban paradise on the North American continent to me. The diversity of the city stunned me, and the number of ethnic restaurants everywhere was literal eye candy. There was no end to the number of Asian restaurants and businesses everywhere. And you could feel it immediately when you arrived at Vancouver International Airport because all the signs were in English, French, and Chinese. People were friendly. The city seemed pretty walkable. People exercise a lot here, everywhere. The air was fresh and clean. I decided by day three there: if I could pick a Canadian city to live in, it would be Vancouver. It pretty much has everything I love about a city… with the exception that it gets cold and rains a lot. But maybe I could one day temporarily deal with it? No need to be so absolute about anything, right?

I spent the mid afternoon to evening today exploring areas that I didn’t get to see much of in-depth the last time I was here, and I found myself loving it even more. The drizzly and overcast sky cleared up to reveal the sun and a few clouds here and there this afternoon, and so I frolicked around and enjoyed walking through Yaletown, Gastown, Chinatown, and the West End. I noticed the quaint cafe and coffee culture every few blocks. I witnessed road rage to the max when I least expected it (apparently, road rage is a big thing here; who would have thought that Canadians could be mean and vicious?). I heard multiple languages being spoken that I couldn’t even recognize and name. I was overwhelmed with my lunch options, all featuring local, fresh, and sustainable ingredients,  and had no idea where to start. Ooh, this is my kind of place. I just want to stay here forever.

Health and fitness are big in Vancouver, almost like the way I noticed it was a thing in Colorado when I visited, and the number of restaurants that not only accommodate vegetarianism and veganism but actually feature sections of these categories of dining is actually really astounding to me. I’ve become more open-minded to veganism over the last several years, especially when it is made with the usual  omnivore in mind. I’m never going to convert, but I’m happy to eat less meat. To put this in perspective, a “recommended” serving of meat/protein in a healthy, well-balanced, nutritious diet is four ounces; that’s about the size of a deck of cards. When you actually give the average American a burger or piece of chicken that size, they scoff at it and say it’s too small. In other words, we eat far too much meat and really don’t understand portion control. We’d all be better off if we reset our expectations and stopped expecting a lot of meat all the time, if not for anything else but our health’s sake. I love all good food as long as its tasty, but don’t give me a carrot and tell me that’s my main course unless you’re going to do something absolutely surprising and crazy with it.

I decided to stop by The Juice Truck in Yaletown today for lunch after reading many rave reviews about how good their food was by vegetarians and omnivores alike. What they do not label themselves as in their name or even description is “vegan,” even though they actually are a plant-based food company with multiple locations throughout Vancouver, both truck and brick-and-mortar shops. There’s not a single animal product used in any of their dishes or smoothies. You wouldn’t know this until you read the individual descriptions of the bowls, plates, or smoothies.

I ordered their “Caesar salad,” which is a mix of romaine, kale, and radicchio served with sriracha-roasted crunchy chickpeas, smoked maple tempeh, walnut “parmesan,” chipotle coconut bacon, fresh lemon, and their house-made creamy cashew “caesar” dressing, as well as their vegan peanut butter chocolate soft serve made with house-made almond milk. Both the salad and the soft serve blew me away. I’ve made my own crunchy roasted chickpeas before, but this was an encouragement to make this again and more often. The cashew-based caesar dressing was nearly addictive with how creamy and umami it was. I finished the salad and felt really satisfied. And what truly impressed me the most was the peanut butter soft serve. I cannot imagine anyone having that who is a peanut butter fan being disappointed and missing the cow milk.

Maybe it’s true: if we stopped labeling things “vegan” or “vegetarian,” maybe people would be more open to trying these foods and embracing them. The only place I saw the word “vegan” on The Juice Truck’s menu was in regard to the soft serve options and the loaf cake slices (banana and lemon coconut, which are made by a plant-based personality who lives in Vancouver and owns ToDieFor.ca. Labeling is overrated; good food is good food. And the more creative the food, the better.

 

Hamstring tightness

The week we got back from India, I did some pretty rigorous workouts, many of which included a lot of sprinting and HIIT sessions. And during one of those runs, I felt something feel like a pinch in my hamstring, but I figured, oh, it will be fine! It led to me hobbling the next day and feeling a lot of tightness along my hamstring all the way up to my butt, which as you can imagine, was really uncomfortable. I did everything from stretching to icing to rubbing tiger balm all over it. That was over six weeks ago. The pain isn’t there anymore, but the tightness still is. I stopped any running or cardio workout and mainly focused on my upper body. Then I tried swimming last week. But it still wasn’t improving. And it got me a little worried.

So, I called a doctor today to get some advice; he pretty much said I was doing everything I should be doing.. other than continuing to lightly exercise my legs. He advised against swimming, which I’d tried out in the last week. He also suggested I get a compression sleeve for my knee and thigh, which I did. And now I really feel like a poser wearing this. I’ve been hiding it with my skirts, but whenever I’ve seen other people wear these sleeves, I always think, wow, that person must be a real athlete! They must work out really hard! I’m not athletic at all, but I do exercise quite a bit. Now, I am one of those people.

He also told me to take it easy, as hamstring injuries can take up to three to four months to heal with proper care. That… makes me feel really excited. And like an invalid. Maybe it’s just a sign of aging since I’ve never really gotten injured during exercise before.

Out of the blue

An old colleague who I was friendly with randomly texted me out of the blue to let me know that his brother has recently talked about killing himself, and that his sister-in-law was worried and out of town and asked him to come stay the night at their place to make sure he didn’t do anything to harm himself. I don’t believe we’d seen each other for at least a year or two, though we were friendly when we worked together two jobs ago for me. He said he knew it was a lot to ask given we hadn’t really been in touch, but wanted to ask if we could chat.

I suppose I am a suicide prevention advocate. I fund raise to increase suicide prevention and mental illness and health awareness, so I’ve made myself the person to go to in a time of crisis. It’s almost like I have a moral obligation to agree to help. How can I say no? So we chatted for over an hour on the phone this evening and I tried to alleviate his concerns and provide some suggestions while listening to what he and his family have been going through.

The worst part about situations like these is that… it’s truly the blind leading the blind. Let’s face it: I was never successful in helping my brother help himself; otherwise, he’d be here now, right? So asking my advice, while I appreciate the thought… I’m not sure I am really capable of helping anyone. I can give my suggestions, say what they absolutely should NOT do, and then hope for the best. We can barely help the people in our lives now with their tunnel visions and chosen life outlooks. How can we help people we don’t even know?

Seasonal blues

For 18 years of my life, I had no idea what the changing four seasons meant. The weather never shifted dramatically in San Francisco, save for the few-day mini heat waves we’d experience, or the slightly elevated temperatures during our Indian summer between September and October every year. As I have spent more and more time on the East Coast, having just surpassed nine years living in New York and 13 years living on the East Coast, I think every time the weather starts turning from summer to autumn, I start becoming a little bit gloomier and more resistant to getting out of bed every day. I hate the cooling temperatures, the impending knowledge that right around the corner, the snow will be coming and the all the disgusting ice and muddy slush that follows it. I feel like either hibernating in my apartment under my covers, or taking every opportunity I can to run off to the warmer climates of the Southern Hemisphere at this time of year.

Genetically, some people are supposedly more predisposed to getting “seasonal depression” or seasonal affective disorder. Their bodies just don’t adjust as readily to the changes in temperature and weather. It’s not totally a mental block; it’s also partly physical, too. Your body starts physically rejecting the changes by making you more tired, eat a lot more or a lot less, sleep more. I feel like that this week. I wonder if there’s a way to test for that via our genetic testing that we’ve participated in. I wonder how predisposed I am?

How Not to Die

This week, I’m wrapping up reading my latest book How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease written by a doctor named Michael Gregor, who also leads a non-profit site called NutritionFacts.org. Reading this book has frankly made me even more angry about medicine in today’s world (or maybe just this country). In the book’s introduction, Dr. Gregor notes that he was inspired to go into medicine because of a truly life-changing turnaround he saw his grandmother go through. When she was just 65, she had a bypass surgery and was told that she probably had days or months at most to live. She entered into a pilot program (in a wheelchair) that required a plant-based diet and daily exercise. After about a month there, she walked out on her own two feet. And on her new plant-based diet and exercise regimen that she continued, his grandmother lived for another 31 years and was even able to see her grandson graduate from medical school.

Once he was of age and met all the requirements, Dr. Gregor applied and was accepted into 21 different medical schools. Much to his disgust, all medical schools in this country spend less than 1 percent of their curriculum on diet and nutrition. He eventually chose to matriculate at Tufts’ medical school, which at the time had the highest number of hours devoted to nutrition focus. He even interviewed at Cornell’s medical school, where one of the interviewers flat out said that there was zero connection between one’s nutrition and one’s health outcomes. Is this what our medical schools are filled with — people who really believe this? No wonder I think medicine in this country is crap.

If there’s one thing I’ve really followed that my dad taught me when I was young, it’s that I really hate taking medication unless I absolutely need it. “Your body is a lot stronger than you think it is,” my dad used to say. But what is “absolute” need, really? I suppose whooping cough is “absolute” need. Then what about high blood pressure? Do we really need high blood pressure medication? A study that Dr. Gregor notes in his book illuminated the fact that by taking two cups of strongly brewed hibiscus tea every day that on average you can actually see the same results as taking the leading HBP medication on the market. What would you rather take — tasty (but sour) hibiscus tea or pills every day?

I always read books like this with a grain of salt; even if I could live longer and healthier on a plant-based diet and eliminate all dairy and meat products, I know I’d be missing out on things I love in life, which I don’t want. But he offers a lot of insight into how USDA food recommendations are marred by food industry money and lobbyists, the benefits of pure grains, fruits, and vegetables that pharmaceutical companies have nothing to gain from if you ate them more, but you’d have lots to gain from a health perspective. He also discusses the science behind all of these things and evidence-based medicine (which I recently learned from a medicine-focused Freakonomics podcast is still not fully embraced by our medical community, surprise surprise; my friend, who is in her second year of doing her residency program now, confirmed this to me in her medical schooling). I realize we live in a factless world now with Dipshit as president, but how can you not embrace evidence-based nutrition and medicine?

Sealant

Another trip to the freaking dentist. If only my teeth could be invincible enough so that I’d never have another dentist visit ever again, I would be so unbelievably happy.

Today, I thought I was going to have a root canal because of some random hole that had developed in one of my teeth due to teeth grinding, but after an X-Ray that showed exactly what type of hole it was, my dentist determined a root canal would be too massive of a procedure for my issue. What is my issue? That a hole resembling the skinniest little cylinder somehow goes straight down one of my back teeth. This has been causing major sensitivity when biting into anything even remotely crunchy for the last seven months. So instead, the dentist cleaned it up and sealed the hole today. And I left with half my mouth numb, including my tongue. When I went to a restaurant to meet Chris, I ordered both of us drinks while feeling like my entire mouth was contorted, and I was speaking pseudo-English. I wonder if the server noticed.

This is my dental life now and for the future. I can brush and floss all I want, but my grinding is going to take over my dental life. And the silly mouth guard is only going to do so much. How did we become a society full of teeth grinders?