Monday, April 26, 2010

David and Goliath

And now, a note about David. My David. My David is the BEST David around. I'm sure there are plenty of them, but mine is the absolute best!

David is helping me fight my battles with PCOS (my Goliath, if you will) and the war would be lost if not for him. You see, David is one of those stark raving patient men--I know, it drives me nuts that he doesn't just go ballistic every once in a while. He gets frustrated, but not so easily and he has been so indescribably supportive over the last year.

PCOS is exhausting. Everyday I am physically and emotionally exhausted, and David, ever the trooper, doesn't complain about my complaining. He lets me sleep in, he makes my coffee in the morning, he makes sure our doggy has gone to pee and had her breakfast and he never complains. On top of all that, he puts up with the hippie grocery store, the whole wheat pasta and bread and taco shells (he even spotted those for me!)and the organic everything and he never makes a wise crack--he just loves me and supports me through my battle. That, my friends, is a huge honking deal.

For the most part, PCOS is a million little things all rolled into one, and stress is a major factor in how my body processes things and produces hormones, like insulin. So many times it seems like David has just made it his goal to make my life easier, and the best part is that I've never had to ask. Now, I don't mean to make it sound like a fairytale with me, the princess, being waited on hand and foot because we argue, we disagree, and pick at each other and nag unnecessarily, but overall, he is my rock and I wouldn't trade him for the world...or even for not having PCOS.

Having a support system, like David, is so important to the lifestyle I have to lead...or rather, that I'm trying to lead, because so many things don't make sense at first glance. Like the organics: never once has David complained or made me feel bad for switching the way we buy groceries. Or, using glass containers instead of plastics (plastic chemicals seep into your food/drink/microwave meal and add to the hormonal issues--not just in PCOS--do some research on BPA!). It isn't that he necessarily understands it all, or that he even wants to know it all, but the sheer fact that he knows its important to me, makes it important to him and that simple way of thinking makes a world of difference in my health and our relationship. He doesn't complain when I'm crying for no reason, or that he has to scoop my hairballs out of the shower, or that sometimes I just NEED something sweet--he'll take me to all three grocery stores AND wal-mart until my need is met.

Sometimes, when I'm down in the dumps about this giant called PCOS, or my job, or school, or bills, or how in the world am I ever going to _________ (whatever that day's major task is) he just lets me know that it is all going to be alright, and that in good times and bad, sickness or health--he's there. That's just a really great feeling.

Natural means nothing!

So, how many of you have ever eaten a store-bought tomato and thought, "man! this is SO much better than the tomatoes I bought from the little old man on the corner selling produce out of his truck!" ???? ....Cricket, cricket....yeah, me either. So, I started buying all/most of my produce locally grown. This means my food comes from places I can actually drive to, volunteer on, or call--and they're all made up of real people who I could meet face-to-face at anytime over the course of my day-to-day life. There are tons of "little old men" selling the freshest, healthiest, best foods my Georgia-grown dollar can buy, and I am all for supporting the little guy and the local economy!(Especially with the selfish motivation of looking and feeling better!)

See, the thing with PCOS is that its a hormone disorder....remember the insulin resistance? Yeah, that is made worse by eating genetically altered or modified foods. Now, its important to note that I did NOT want to jump on any organic, going-green propaganda bandwagon....this came down to an "I have to do this" not an "I think its cool to do this" thing. I do NOT think its cool that I have to pay more money to buy healthy, unaltered foods. Not cool at all. Especially working for the State! My salary barely affords the luxuries of Ramen noodles much less "grass fed beef"....I don't know how the people with kids do it! State workers aren't even eligible for food stamps!

Anyway, I digress. Here are the 12 Commandments of Organic Eating:
1. Meats: beef, chicken, pork-- these are all animals that are mass produced, fed grains, injectibles, hormones, etc. Animals, by default, also have a pancreas...which, by default produces insulin...the insulin then gets passed onto ME when I eat them. The hormones/injectibles add to the "junk" that gets passed on and because their diet was unnatural (cows aren't bred to digest grains, but rather grass) it basically helps in making me sicker. Same with all the other meats. It doesn't matter (for me) if I get it grilled, boiled, steamed or fried: the non-organic meats have the same effect on me no matter how they're prepared.
2. Dairy/eggs: this sort of goes along with the meat scenario. Well, actually they're FACTS, but if you can only afford a little bit of organic it should ALWAYS be meat and dairy. Simply changing these two things in the last week has made me feel oodles better!
3. Strawberries, raspberries, cherries
4. Apples & Pears
5. Tomatoes
6. Spinach & Greens
7. Coffee (yeah right, that junk is like $13/lb!)
8. Potatoes
9. Peaches, nectarines, etc.
10. Grapes
11. Celery (oops! I forgot that was on the list)
12. Peppers

Numbers 3-12 are mostly on this list because of the pesticides associated with growing "pretty" crops, however fruits and veggies DO get injected with hormones too. One easy way to tell with produce is by looking at the PLU codes. Four-digit code, 4011 for example, is a conventionally grown fruit/veggie. This means it isn't injected, but isn't organic...its "standard." A 5-digit PLU beginning with a "9" like 94011, means the food is Certified Organic. Anything else, you don't want to eat. Some start with 8, that means its been genetically modified. Stick with either the 4-digit or the 5-digit beginning with 9!

Another grocery shopping modification is no High Fructose Corn Syrup. I don't care what those commercials say about "it comes from corn....its completely natural..." that's a load of grain-fed bullsh*t, if you ask me and I want no part of it! Natural means nothing. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a clear and colorless liquid, which is synthetically and chemically derived from corn. It is commonly used as a sweetener in many processed foods because it’s cheaper and sweeter than sugar. HFCS is everywhere. It’s even in products that you wouldn’t expect it to be in. HFCS is comprised of two simple sugars: fructose and glucose. HFCS is very different than table sugar.

So, what’s the difference between table sugar and HFCS? In HFCS, the glucose and fructose are unbonded, resulting in “free” sugars. Table sugar on the other hand is a disaccharide with a bond between its glucose and fructose.

In other words, HFCS is not natural. It’s not something that you could ever make at home. HFCS takes dozens of mechanical and chemical processes to produce. If I can't make it, I don't want to eat it....and not being able to "make" it has nothing to do with not knowing the recipe! I don't have a bunch of over-paid scientists who are trying to convince the already over-weight Americans that HFCS is a-okay! It isn't. Its awful. And, PCOS research shows that HFCS--even in moderation--is a key component to causing PCOS and insulin resistance. Again, natural means nothing.

Keep in mind that I'm not trying to preach here, or force any kind of anything down anyone's throat. I am, however, writing all of this out as a reminder to myself of why in the world I am shopping at a tiny, kind of smelly, hippie grocery store and how great its going to feel in a few months when all this "crap" and unhealthy hormones are out of me. The old saying "you are what you eat" is exactly true!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Planting a Seed

The title of my blog, "Reaping My Harvest", comes from Galatians 6:9 which basically says "Keep on doing good, for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up." I got this from the Salvation Army. I wish I could say I was diligent enough to have originally found it in one of the eight Bibles I own, but I didn't; I was making a donation to the Salvation Army and there it was on their website. Now I use it as my daily reminder to do the best I can, with what I have, right now, because I know my hard work will be rewarded, even if its only in my own satisfaction of a job well done.

To make a short story long, I have a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which ironically enough have very little to do with my ovaries, but way more to do my blood sugar, insulin levels, and overall health--especially things I would have never thought to be related. My specific variety of PCOS comes with high insulin resistance (IR), which basically means my body produces more insulin than it uses, and doesn't even use what it produces efficiently enough, so it tricks itself into thinking "hey, I need more!" so it continues to produce more and more insulin which causes, among other things, weight gain, acne, hair loss and potentially infertility which of course then leads to exhaustion, depression, anxiety--all things that make the PCOS worse. The majority of this blog will be PCOS related, not because I'm complaining about it, but because I have a good deal of friends and family who know I have this "P-something" and don't really understand it but want to.

In the beginning, my posts will likely be filled with lots of background, unreferenced information, because this blogging is a type of stress-management for me--another key factor in controlling my PCOS. I've always liked to write, and now thanks to the interwebz, I can write and if anyone wants to read it, they can.

So, back to the whole "harvest" thing. I've been doing a lot of reading and research lately, which is dangerous because reading makes people think...and read even MORE! I recently discovered that all the hormones, pesticides and general "crap" the FDA allows to be put in our foods (not just meat either!) are jacking with my hormones even more than the PCOS. So, I have decided to start buying as much of mine (and David's) food as locally, organically, naturally grown as possible and honestly, just knowing that I am making that one change has helped my emotional status a ton!

Now, I already knew that the standard "exercise, eat right, drink water" blah blah blah was the way to help my PCOS along with the twelve--yes twelve--pills I take (or try to take) everyday, BUT recently my doctor informed me that exercise and lifestyle was something like 70% more effective than the God awful metformin I take (which has lovely side effects like b-12 deficiency, hair loss, headaches, perpetual nausea, 'stomach upsets' and smells like rotten fish). So, I thought I would give it a try.

Now, we all know that for crops to grow you have to plant seeds and wait. Yes, there are other steps and TLC, but basically you plant the seeds ans wait. That is exactly what I have been doing: plating my seeds (being as healthy as I thought I could be, taking my pills, exercising occasionally) and waiting. Things got worse. My IR increased, making me feel worse, really messing with my self esteem and making me stress out--making EVERYTHING worse. So, what was I missing? The hard work.

Planting is hard work. Whether it is a hobby, a career or a way to feed your family: planting is not just "plant and wait." You have to work the soil, watch the seasons, study moon phases (?), remove weeds, thin out seedlings, water often--but not too much, and do it every single day. That is HARD work. I know because I watched my Papa do it every season for as long as I can remember until he passed away, but after ALL that work, everyday, we had bushels of every kind of vegetable you can imagine and boy were they delicious! That was his harvest. His hard work paid off in the meals of his family, neighbors, and even strangers. So now I know this is what I have to do: work hard to reap my harvest.

My harvest is my health and Emerson said "the first wealth is health" and I'm obliged to believe he's right. So, this is my first step in working towards my harvest. Starting right now! Not "planning" to start on xx/xx/20xx, right now. Last week I set some goals for myself like waking up on time, walking everyday, buying organically, and taking my pills everyday. I'm happy to honestly report that I did a pretty good job on those, but I didn't walk everyday--and I don't have a good reason as to why not. BUT, I forgive myself and I'm working towards GOALS, not missions, I didn't fail. I just have to learn how to make time for what is really important for me. So, setting goals, working hard, staying consistent and educated--are all part of my planting so I can reap my harvest.

The most exciting goal I achieved was discovering This is where I'm going to buy as much of my foodstuffs as possible and I love it! Totally my kind of thing, even though I'm hesitant because I don't want people to think that I'm jumping on any kind of band wagon: I'm jumping on the TRUTH! This stuff is so much better for you, and tastier, and costs about the same as in a grocery store, but keeps the profits in the Athens area, supports local farmers and benefits not only me, but them as well. I have NEVER met the person who makes the Publix milk, nor do I know the addresses of the farms from which Publix gets their greens, eggs, beef, dog treats, bacon--nothing! Locally Grown has food from growers in cities I've either actually been to or could be in within a half-hour or so from my home. That is freaking awesome!

Now, I know this first post has been long winded, but I wanted to get some of what has been on my mind, off my chest. I hope anyone who reads this enjoys learning more about PCOS and my journey with it. I'm happy to talk more or answer questions if anyone wants to know more. Trust me, with all the doctors I've seen trying to figure this thing out, I'm no longer embarrassed to talk about ANYTHING!

Remember, keep on doing good, for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up. This is my way of not giving up!