Monday, November 25, 2013

"I've found a love for working out."

Exhibit A
It's one month until Christmas and my friend Whitney has more to celebrate than usual. See Exhibit A above - a small mountain of clothes that are now so big and loose that she's finally letting them go. She's now four months into her training and happier than ever. Don't believe me? Read her testimonial below and get it straight from the source.


There are some things I can do now that I felt I couldn't before I started training with Jenn. One was to simply go into a gym and feel comfortable. I've also found that I have much more stamina and confidence going into my workouts. For example, when we started, I struggled to just get through the 10-minute dynamic warm-ups.  Now I I can get through it without feeling out of breath and having the overwhelming desire to give up before I even start. 

On the physical side, I have been able to lift more weight, complete more reps and have seen the length of time I can train without rest increase - and I move through our strength circuits faster as well. I am able to - and need to - wear my under armor shirt (from college) under my clothes since my workout T-shirts have begun to look like "Moo-moos," as Jenn calls them.  [Jenn: Hopefully some of those shirts are in the pile above...]

I have also found that the benefits of training go even further than looser clothing and better cardiovascular conditioning. Recently I was able to play in my college Alumni soccer game which I haven't participated in for a couple years because I felt that i couldn't play and didn't want to embarrass myself. This year I played in the game and did pretty well. In addition, all of my friends noticed that I seem happier and healthier. 

Moving forward, a couple things I want to tackle and look forward to is possibly completing a mud-run/short walk/run. I know that these are future goals because, right now, I'm taking it slow which is better for me. More immediate goals I'm focusing on is doing every exercise that Jenn tells me to do and to increase my reps within the time allotted. I also want to continue to lose weight by exercising and by incorporating healthy choices into my lifestyle - which I have been doing, but is always hard. 

I mentioned to Jenn that I stand taller now because that's how I feel (haha). Basically, when you have a stomach on you i feel like you naturally hunch a bit to try and disguise it. But now that I've working out and gaining confidence, I stand taller because I'm proud of myself. My 9-year old nephew, Jack, swears that I've gotten taller every time I see him. Even though I explain to him I haven't grown in years he still tells me, "Aunt Whitney, you got taller, don't lie to me". 

Through this experience, I am learning about the right types of exercise I should be doing for my goals, my weight, my limitations and how to complete them correctly so that I do not hurt myself which is very important. I've also learned that keeping a food journal is so helpful due to the simple fact that you forget what and how much you eat in a day. If it's there on your phone or a piece of paper you realize, WOW, I really should not have an extra snack right now. Also the staff at All Star Sports Academy and my coach, Jenn, have never made me feel like i couldn't finish an exercise or walked away and left me to try stuff on my own. Every time I work out, I have support from the other small group session attendees and/or the staff to keep me going. Now when I miss an exercise day I feel like crap and I can't wait to workout - even if my body doesn't feel like doing anything I always get in there and then I don't want to leave. 

I agreed to work with Jenn because I have been lazy for such a long time. I played three sports in high school and then college soccer and, through it all, I was told what to do and when to exercise. When i graduated college i just wanted to RELAX. Well, relaxing did not help me in any which way because I realize that it wasn't so much relaxing as it was being lazy. So I told myself that if an opportunity came up I had to take it because, if not, I would be an idiot. Jenn presented personal training at All Star Sports Academy to me on the off chance I would say yes and it was the best decision I have ever made. Now I've found a love for working out because I have seen improvement in myself and have overwhelming support from my family, co-workers and friends. I workout now for myself; not to please a team or a coach - just for myself. I have gained such an education on the body, food, calories, and exercises through this time spent training with Jenn that it has made a great improvement in my lifestyle. And, as the famous Carpenters sang, "We've only just begun...".

Jenn: Way to go, Whitney! Keep up the amazing work and we'll be in that mud run together next spring!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Does Originality Exist in a Modern World?

The idea for today's topic came to me after an interesting situation presented itself to me this morning. First, a brief history - I am a strength and conditioning coach at All Star Sports Academy in Toms River, NJ. We do a lot of youth athlete training at our facility and this includes team training where an entire hockey team or basketball team will come in to train with us one night a week. A few weeks ago, while I was coaching a group of young teen male hockey players, one of the owners of the gym was observing. The players were about as bad as my 14-year old daughter with their gossip and slacking off when they were supposed to be pushing through a conditioning session. The owner said to them at one point, "Somewhere there is a team getting their work done. You'll know them when you meet them."

I printed a couple of flyers, featuring last year's local high school hockey regional champions with the words "Are You All In", and left them on his desk, hoping he might actually post them somewhere to help motivate the kids. These kids pictured obviously got their work done and it paid off big time. He told me he saw them and liked them, but that was the last I heard about it. They weren't posted anywhere or mentioned again.

Yesterday, I heard him throwing the phrase "Are you all in?" around in regards to something he had read. Ok, I know I didn't invent the phrase, but this was weird. Then, today, he posted a video on facebook asking fitness professionals if they are "all in" for their clients. Ok, good application of an awesome idea; I'm down with that. But, initially, it bothered me that it seemed like he took my motivational slogan and made it his. But then I thought about it. I obviously didn't invent the phrase - gamblers have been saying it for centuries in who knows how many languages and fitness professionals have no doubt been using it forever. I came to the conclusion that, if it was never mine in the first place, it can't be stolen.

So what is an original idea and, more importantly, do they even exist anymore? I mean, Nike didn't invent the phrase "Just Do It," but they picked a font and an application and made it their brand.

To give credit where credit is due, I only came up with the idea to use that phrase after my boss made that comment to the team during my session. I simply took it one step further in my mind. I have no idea where it came from. I read a lot of blogs and watch a lot of television and live sports. I could have heard it weeks or even months ago and it was just sitting around in my subconscious waiting for me to find an application in which I could use it that would be meaningful to me.

In essence, I arrived at the idea of athletes being "All In" because of what he had said (that combined with the new "One More" Gatorade commercial that's been on all of the time). He said he got to the idea of fitness professionals being "All In" from various reading he's done and listening to others over the past few months. For him the concept application crystalized not when he saw my flyer, but when read something by another fitness professional.

Regardless of how either of us came to our respective points, does that make the "Are You All in?" idea his or mine? Or both? Or neither? And, perhaps most importantly, does it even matter? I say no, it doesn't matter, especially if the idea continues to evolve and feed other ideas like this one most certainly has.

Which brings me to the main point of this ramble. What does it mean to be original? Do you have to come up with an idea, a product, a phrase, a song so completely new that no one anywhere has ever thought about it? Is that even possible? Or, do you just have to find a new way to arrange the words or the pieces or even invent a new use for it?

Marketing and advertising are all collaboration - just like the creation of music. There's not a single recording artist out there today that doesn't have another's "sound" threaded through his/her "original" works. Inspiration surrounds us every day - it is the blending of the sights, sounds, smells and feelings all around us, continually weaving the very fabric of our lives. In fact, each and every training session at our facility is founded on science of the body and of movement that came from other very smart people long before our turf floor was installed. This science blended with each trainer's personal style and favorite movements and methods has helped us to create something unique in our area. Just because it's a remix of sorts doesn't make us any less effective as coaches. Quite the opposite, actually. Some food for thought.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Progress Continues

Hey everyone, I wanted to pop in and give you all a brief update on how Whitney's doing. While we haven't weighed in again, she reported that when shopping in Maine with a friend a couple of weeks ago, she was able to buy shirts a couple of sizes smaller than she had been wearing. I can attest to this because one of her (former) favorite workout t-shirts was hanging on her like a moo-moo. She's doing amazing!

While on the same trip, she was also able to bike for miles on end through the New Hampshire hills on a BEACH CRUISER no less. She was able to hike and keep up with her friend who she had been visiting who is some kind of nutsy outdoor adventure type.

Her workouts are increasing in intensity every week. She's up to five 3-minute rounds hitting the heavy bag while carrying on a broken conversation - and that's at the end of our workouts! Additionally, she's looking forward to attending her college reunion next month and playing in the alumni soccer game which she's forgone the past few years because she just couldn't play due to her weight and de-conditioning.

I have really grown to look forward to our training sessions. We have great conversations and a lot of laughs, all while working out together.

Stay tuned for more updates and maybe some pics from her alumni weekend if she's willing to share ;)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

If your child is a youth athlete, read this

Is your youth athlete at risk?
I'm going to take some time to discuss something that I had been peripherally aware of up until I watched the documentary titled "Head Games" (available now on Netflix) about athletes and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

CTE is a progressive, degenerative brain disease that you and your child cannot afford to ignore. Previously known as Dementia Puglistica (DP), the disease was originally diagnosed in those involved in boxing and is caused by repeated blows to the head. This includes concussive and sub-concussive events. Meaning, whether or not you or your child has ever been diagnosed with a concussion, you may be at risk for CTE.

Have your or your child ever been involved in a collision and reported seeing stars? Have you or your child ever been hit in the head and blacked out? Have you ever said things got "fuzzy" after a collision? If so, you have suffered a concussive or sub-concussive event.

Depending on the sport, the risk and frequency of suffering blows to the head can increase exponentially. Today, athletes in contact sports such as football, hockey, lacrosse, MMA, boxing, and, yes, even soccer, are reporting more and more concussions. Are they happening more often? Probably not. What seems to be happening is that the awareness regarding CTE by the sports organizers and the general public is increasing after a number of very high profile elite athletes committed suicide and/or murder in what seemed at first like random events. Scientists, however, have diagnosed many of these athletes, including NFL legend Junior Seau, with CTE after autopsy - and it's not just long-time NFL veterans who are suffering.

Scientists, researchers and player safety advocates are trying to raise awareness that the damage done to our children during their first 10 years in their sport is putting them at risk for CTE and related brain disease later in life.

Did you know that the only football league in this country to limit full-contact practices is the NFL? Here we have a thousand elite athletes, in prime physical condition, and they're only allowed to hit one another once a week (not including game day). Yet, we suit up our 8 year olds in helmets that are too heavy for their underdeveloped neck musculature 4-5 times a week for full-contact practices?

Concussions are bad, we all know that. What many people don't know is that all of those seemingly small hits our kids take to the head every day in practice are adding up and youth athletes, in general, are more vulnerable to the effects. It's being reported that sub-concussive hits may be as damaging as diagnosed concussions, and football players are not the only athletes at risk.

Girls' soccer players, in fact, are reporting more and more concussive and sub-concussive events.
"The American Journal of Sports Medicine studied the rate of concussions in high school athletics from 2008 through 2010...Of the 1,936 reported concussions during the study, 47 percent were suffered playing or practicing football. No. 2 on the list: girls soccer, at 8.2 percent."
So what do we, as parents, do? Do we stop our kids from playing the sports they love or is there a way to make their play safer? Advocates are working hard to introduce legislation that will help better protect our youth athletes and, according to this article, every state but one has already enacted bills to help get kids off the field at the first sign of head trauma and prevent them from returning to play until they have fully recovered.

Yet, like all legislation, the actual implementation and enforcement may not be consistent. As parents and care givers, it it our responsibility to be in tune with our children and speak out for their safety and protection. I know it's hard to tell your kids they can't go back into the game, but it's not the parent's job to always be liked. It's our job to protect first. If you see your child suffer a blow to the head or if they are involved in any kind of collision and are slow to get up or just don't seem themselves - TAKE THEM OUT. I don't care what the coach or other parents say. This is YOUR child/children we are talking about.

If your child is complaining of chronic headaches or suffering mood swings, inability to fall asleep or even cognitive/memory problems, remove them from play and have them checked out by a neurologist. Researchers are still learning about CTE and have yet to find a cure or treatments at this time. Your best defense is through prevention. Kids will get knocked around - and that's the name of the game, so to speak. But allowing them to return to play before they are ready can cause irreparable, irreversible damage.

*Please take the time to explore the linked articles. CTE is a serious disease that can be prevented through awareness.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Are you getting taller?"

We're three weeks in now and some amazing things are beginning to happen for Whitney. "In the past week, no fewer than three people have asked me if I'm getting taller," she said. "I'm 27, I know I'm not still growing."

I think she's looking taller because she's already losing weight around her face and neck. We haven't weighed in again, but there's no need. Her body is already changing. She's also noticed that some of the people around her are suddenly becoming more active. After buying some boxing gloves and target mitts to practice with, her father has pitched in and is happy to help her spar on her "off" days. And one of her friends has begun walking a couple of days a week with her at the local reservoir - a 1.6 mile loop. In case that doesn't sound like a lot of exercise, try strapping a couple hundred pounds to your body and then taking the same stroll.

Enough of my comments and observations. Below is Whitney's week 2-3 update:

ME: You're two full weeks in now, how's it going?

WHITNEY: It’s going pretty good, coming to the workouts isn’t so much of a hassle anymore I actually feel like if I missed a workout I wouldn’t feel right. Also i’ve noticed my confidence has increased with showing up to the gym and working out.

ME: I've noticed how much your stamina is already improving (boxing for 1:00 straight when you started at :30 seconds just a week ago. Have you noticed any differences in your day-to-day (energy at work, home, with family and friends)?

WHITNEY: My energy levels definitely have increased and my sleeping has improved. Usually during the day due to my job consisting of mostly driving I found myself wanting to fall asleep at the wheel and then waking up 2-3 times during the night. Now I work, go to workout and when I get home I can actually relax and fall asleep. Also my job entails a lot of stress and Im able to bring some of that stress to the workout as well which is a great release.

ME: You told me a man at your job is also starting a fitness program on his own and said you two should be "each other's support group." How is that working out? Do you find extra motivation from him and others who know about your training?

WHITNEY: YES!!! Basically when I started these workouts I decided to not tell anyone, once you tell people then its like a flood of questions and I didn’t want to happen. Then I realized, why shouldn’t I be proud of the decision I made to improve myself? I realized that sometimes it’s important to tell people because then it’s not only creating a support system for yourself but it’s also creating a sense of accountability. You can talk like your doing all these things to improve yourself but if you don’t start showing it, its all false but when other people are involved in someway it’s almost like they are waiting to see the change too and you get a sense of not wanting to let people done which all goes to motivation.

ME: How is your nutrition this past week? Are you still keeping your food journal? Did you take my advice on the orange juice? :-)

WHITNEY: I am still keeping my food journal which now that I keep it on my phone it has become so much easier to keep updated. Also it’s amazing to see what you consume in a day and how all the protein, fat, sugar and such add up. I did take your tips about the nutrition and i’ve noticed a positive difference.

If anyone is interested in the type of training we're doing, here are a few sample circuits she performs during our sessions:

KB swings x10
KB cleans  x10/10
KB press x10/10
Small steps on an aerobics step x 30

Dead Ball Slams x 10
Dead Ball Granny Toss x 10
Dead Ball Soccer Throw x 10

Alt Arm Rope Slams 10/10
2-Arm Rope Slams 10
Seated Rope Russian Twists - 10

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Meet Whitney

Today I wanted to tell you all about one of my newest, and most determined clients. Her name is Whitney. I met Whitney at a Kid Rock concert we were attending with mutual friends. We got to talking about working out and weight lifting and hit it off from the start. I found out she used to train heavily in college - we're both former soccer goalies - high school for me, college for Whit. But she admits she let some bad habits fill a void after she graduated.

Without going into too much detail, let me just say this. Whitney is one of the strongest women I've met in a very long time. She may not "look" like it from the outside, but I see it as clear as day. At the age of 26, she is 5'7" and 353 lbs (when we started). She is in danger of life long health problems and, like most people in her position, she knew she needed to do something. But she just didn't know where to begin.

Then we met about a month ago. Me, a personal trainer looking to grow my business; Whitney, a woman in need of motivation and instruction to bring out the athlete that's hiding inside. It was a perfect match.

Whitney and I started officially working together last week. She has committed to training with me three times a week, comes to my bi-weekly strength club sessions and began making some lifestyle changes regarding diet and how she spends her free time before we even began training.

I'm going to be posting updates from Whitney's journey and am counting on my followers to comment at any time with encouraging and motivating words to help keep her fire burning. She has a long road ahead of her, but she's already moving in the right direction. I know that, with consistency and some simple changes in her diet, she will find tremendous success.

Whitney's Week 1 Update

Me: Whitney, what was the biggest  challenge you faced starting this program?

Whitney: Motivation to say yes and to actually attend all workouts with a positive attitude. Knowing you're overweight is hard, but actually feeling it through every workout and your food choices is harder and a constant reminder.

Me: Did anything surprise you? (Something you thought would be difficult that wasn't so bad? Something you thought would be easy that wasn't...)

Whitney: I thought that these workouts would have a large amount of cardio (running) in them because that is what everyone told me before: “just run and the pounds will melt off.” But the truth is, ya its easy for a small little petite person to tell someone overweight to “just run,” but overweight people can’t run that well - that's the problem. These circuits and workouts that I have been completing (with Jenn) are not only a good workout, but also fun and involve cardio without you even thinking about it.

Me: How do you like the facility and the training environment?

Whitney: I like the atmosphere of the facility [All Star Sports Academy in Toms River, NJ]. All of the staff that I have had the pleasure of meeting were polite and you can see that they care about all their members. The facility is packed full of different free weights, machines, open space and perfectly set up so that you can have a group running at the same time of one-on-one training and everyone feels as though the entire facility is open to them.

Me: Are you noticing any changes in your energy level? Appetite? Cravings?

Whitney: I have noticed that my craving for Coke Cola has decreased and now I can take a sip and be satisfied when before I would drink two full bottles worth in one setting. I have noticed that, now that I eat three squared meals a day with or without a snack, I feel full and am able to stop. Also what has helped is realizing the difference between a craving for a specific food/drink rather than my body being actually hungry which has helped decrease my intake.

Me: How are you sleeping? Is this better or worse than before we started?

Whitney: My sleep has definitely improved. I try to get to sleep between 10-10:30 at night. Before I would not be able to fall asleep until around 1 am and I always wake up at 6:55 am (5 minutes before my alarm). I fall asleep faster and I've noticed that when I wake up I feel energized, not sluggish.

Me: What about how are your clothes are fitting?

Whitney: I’ve noticed that I don’t have to stretch out my clothes before wearing them much anymore, also i’ve always had a hard time finding clothes that fit around my neck. My pants are fitting better around the waist and a little loosely and people at work have noticed and say things like, “your shirt looks big on you” and “your clothes are hanging off of you.”

Stay tuned for Whitney's next update coming soon!

NOTE: I'm not posting pics of Whitney yet. I want to give her some real time to groove her new habits first. But, rest assured, we will be proudly posting her progress pics after a few months of consistent training.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Finally, some progress to report

Join me on facebook @
NJ Women's Powerlifting Club
Those of you who have been following me know how I've been struggling to lose the weight that mysteriously crept on as a result of some sort of metabolic meltdown.

Regardless of the reasons for my crash, I wanted to report that things are FINALLY on the upswing. I've been on a testosterone, progesterone/estradiol regimen to reverse an estrogen-dominance issue. Additionally, my Cytomel dose is finally close to perfect and my doc added Armour Thyroid as well.

I've lost 10 of the 15 lbs. I gained, since I started this regimen about three months ago. I don't count calories or do much cardio. Other than an occasional metabolic type of training class to keep up my endurance and work on stability, core and balance, I've returned to powerlifting to work on adding some lean mass now that I may be hormonally better able to.

I stay active by seeking out opportunities to play whenever and wherever possible and eat only when I'm very hungry. No fasting. No calorie counting. Not a whole lot of thinking required.

Speaking of which, it's time for me to get my ass moving as the day is getting away from me already.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Metabolic Meltdown

It's the journey that counts; not the destination.

Promises, promises. I know, I said I'd be writing more often. I don't know how it happens, but time just soars by sometimes. The last time I wrote, I was telling you about my RT3 problem and how I'm not sure, but I think IF may have been related to the T4-RT3 conversion issue. I still have not found proof of this, so take what I write with a grain of salt as it's all circumstantial. (If anyone reading this has had a similar experience, please let me know!)

Despite HOW it happened, my body has undergone a complete metabolic meltdown over the past 6 months to a year - maybe longer. As of my last post, all I knew was that my body was converting too much of my Synthroid (T4) into reverse T3, resulting in a hypoactive state despite 'normal' T3 levels in my blood. Well, about six weeks ago, my latest labs showed my DHEA was falling, my testosterone level of 17 was on the very low, low, LOW end of where a woman should be and I had nearly zero progesterone in my body. The plot thickens! Additionally, my iron saturation was a paltry 15% showing some kind of absorption issue.

New supplement regimen:

Armour Thyroid
25 mg Cytomel (started at 12mg, but I felt sluggish and started gaining weight again, so I bumped it up a bit more)
10 mg Testosterone (in the form of bio-idential cream 3x's a week)
progesterone cream (twice a day; every day for days 12-26 of my cycle)
Iron supplements
DHEA (very low dose of 5 mg since I am already estrogen dominant)

Plus I am taking a cocktail of vitamins, including our alphabet friends B, C, D, and E as well as Milk Thistle, digestive enzymes and selenium. I also take ZMA nightly which gives me wickedly detailed dreams and deep sleep.

I've also sworn off of gluten - finally - and am managing to avoid it quite easily. I guess it was just a matter of making the commitment. I'm not grain free yet as I still eat rice and oats, but I'll cut those later if need be.

It's been about 6 weeks on this new regime and I'm honestly feeling good for the first time in a long, long time. My energy is returning as is my strength. I'm sleeping better and my insomnia is gone. No more waking up at 2 or 3 am and staying awake for hours on end and I'm able to stay awake past the 10 o'clock news (most nights).

My training is back to the basics - RPT style powerlifting three days a week with A LOT of walking. Next month I'm adding back in HIIT to train for a short mud run event I'm participating in this June with some ladies from the gym where I work.

As for diet, I am not fasting on purpose. Some days I miss breakfast, but I'll have a fresh veggie/fruit juice that I make at home to at least give my body some nutrition. I'll also have BCAAs before and after I workout if I have not eaten. I'm eating more protein and veggies and mostly potatoes and rice on training days for my starchy carbs.

As for my labs, we'll see how they look when I go back in about a week. I wanted to give myself about two months on the new supplement program to let my body stabilize a bit before getting tested again. Stay tuned and I'll let you know how things look.

Until then; Remember: true health is a marathon, not a sprint.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

IF not the Panacea I hoped it would be

A handful of you who have been following me since the beginning may recall the article I wrote called "Surprising but welcome news from my doctor" about how, after only a few short months of IF, my thyroid medication needed to be reduced. Well, that's what we thought anyway.

In the article I mentioned my severely depressed TSH and rising T4 and antibodies. According to my former endocrinologist, I was becoming clinically hyperactive and my meds needed to be reduced. Thinking that less medicine is always better, I saw this as good news. Boy was I wrong!

After this visit, my doses were reduced two more times over the next 18 months after finding my TSH still hovering near zero and my T4 and antibodies were increasing. There was never a discussion on what could be causing this. My doctor knew I was practicing daily intermittent fasting (no food for 14-16 hours a day) as I asked him on multiple occasions whether that could be causing this - for better or for worse. He simply shrugged.

When I saw him last in March of 2012 I told him I was frustrated because I couldn't get lean, I was regaining weight, and my belly fat was going nowhere. He suggested liposuction - and one more dose reduction. See ya later, douchecanoe.

Fast forward to October 2012. I found an MD with a heavy slant toward naturopathy. I don't know why naturopaths seem to be the only physicians who give a shit about actually healing people, but it's certainly true in my case.

She spent almost an hour with me on our first visit taking a detailed history and ordered the most complete metabolic blood work to date - not just thyroid, but adrenals, pregnenelone, testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, DHEA, vitamin D, etc. When the labs came back, guess what? My TSH was STILL almost zero - I'm talking 0.04 when it should be between 1.0 - 4.0 area. My cortisol was also quite high. Still not clued in to what was going on, she reduced my Synthroid one more time and put me on adrenal support and a number of vitamins to reduce my cortisol.

I felt better for a few weeks, but then things started to dive. I gained more weight. I was falling asleep on the couch at 8 pm for no reason. My appetite was gone. I was cold all the time.

I started doing more in-depth research after a woman in my FFF facebook group suggested I have my reverse T3 (RT3) tested. What the hell is that, I asked? I've been dealing with thyroid issues since I was in high school and this is the first time I'd ever even heard of RT3.

So what is it?

When our thyroid makes T4 - a storage hormone - (or, as in my case, when I take T4 medication like Synthroid), our body must convert the T4 primarily into the active T3 hormone that our cells desperately need. Since our bodies are wonderfully resilient and have an amazing capacity for homeostasis, our bodies are also able to convert T4 into the mirror of T3 - called RT3. In a nutshell, RT3 binds to any excess T3 in the body, rendering it inert or unusable so as to keep our hormones in balance.

What I didn't know at the time is that the conversion of T4 to RT3 is increases under the following circumstances:

- high cortisol
- iron deficiency
- fasting / extreme dieting
- ultra low-carb diets

So, I asked my doctor to add RT3 to my most recent labs and she thankfully obliged. When the labs came back I plugged my numbers into this handy converter and found my ratio was 9.1 when it should have been well over 20! My TSH and T4 were also elevated (though it's important to know both were still within what is considered 'normal' range.) Thyroid Antibodies were lower, but still considered 'high.' The only good news is that my cortisol dropped, but now it looks like my DHEA is a bit low.

Well, well, well...turns out that our bodies run great when we don't f*#@ with them. Because of my little experiment with IF, it would seem that my body fought back by overproducing RT3 over the past two years, cutting back production of Free T3, slowing my metabolism so I will survive the artificial famine I had created for myself. At least that's my theory. We haven't checked iron yet - that's in the next round.

Why blame IF when it RT3 dominance has other causes? Well, let's take a look at the facts: 

1999 - Papillary Carcinoma diagnosed; entire thyroid removed and I-131 treatment ensued. Rx .150 mcg Synthroid to suppress any potential thyroid function.

1999-2010 no change in labs tested every 7 months. Meds remain at .150 mcg.

2011, Jan/Feb - Start intermittent fasting and heavy weight training a la Leangains. No other changes other than lifting heavy weights and eating a lot of animal protein. Weight 130 lbs (skinny fat, no strength at all).

2011, March - Labs show TSH near zero, T4 and antibodies climbing. Meds reduced to .137 mcg. Weight 120 lbs.

2011, August - tried a 14-day PSMF experiment (basically all protein and green veggie fat-loss diet). Lost a few pounds. Resumed IF/Leangains. Weight 115 lbs. Doing weighted chin-ups; deadlifting 205 lbs.

2011, October - Labs show same problems, suffering from cold sweats at night. Meds reduced to .125 mcg. 5 lb weight gain ensues.

2012, January - worked with Andy Morgan for a couple of months to try to lose the 5 lbs I had mysterious gained, but the calories were way too low and I was basically passing out every time I tried to sit up. Gained a few pounds despite ridiculously low calories. Resume IF/Leangains.

2012, March - TSH slightly better, dose kept at .125. Doc tells me to live with it and get lipo if I want a flat stomach. Never prescribes labs for anything but TSH, T4, T3 and antibodies. Strength still high. deadlift 245 lbs for reps at bodyweight of 120 lbs.

2012, March - I start search for a doctor who actually cares about helping me. Stop powerlifting and start more intense cross-fit style training trying to lose the weight.

2012, October - See new doctor who finds elevated cortisol, TSH still near zero. Antibodies high. T4 high. Reduces meds to .100 mcg, prescribes natural supplements for cortisol issue. 5 lb weight gain with no major change in diet or exercise habits.

2012, November - I tried a few weeks on Carb Nite Solutions diet, weight seemed to be coming off slowly, but then went on vacation and enjoyed Christmas and New Year's. I didn't eat in excess, but I wasn't counting calories either. Weight gain resumed. Exhausted every night by 8-9 pm despite sleeping in.

2013, January - Now almost back to 130 lbs. I ask for RT3 test in addition to follow-up blood work. Find out that my RT3:Free T3 ratio is well out of wack. I have RT3 dominance and my body is not getting enough T3 - SURPRISE!!!  Doc prescribes Cytomel (T3 only medication). Why? Well, T3 cannot be changed by the body into RT3. Without a thyroid gland and without T4 medication, my body will no longer be able to manufacture RT3. We are currently working to increase my T3 dose until my body temp rises 98.6 and my pulse resembles that of a living person. This probably won't happen until the RT3 decays completely over the next 2-3 months.

Phew! What a journey! I think I know more about the thyroid and the body's use of thyroid hormones than my d-bag former endocrinologist now. Looking back, if he had a damn clue about metabolism, he should have put this together more than a year ago and things would be different.

A sudden rise in T4 when I don't have a thyroid should have been his first clue that something was changing. It meant my body was suddenly not converting as much. Did he ask why? Hell no. My rising antibodies meant my cells weren't getting enough T3 even though it appeared I had too much because of my very low TSH. Did he ask why? Hell no.

So here I am. It's almost two years later and I have regained most of the 15 pounds I originally lost. Granted, I am hella stronger than I had been, so it's not all fat. But I am still nowhere near sub 20% bodyfat I was aiming for and seem to be going backwards. I'm hoping that my doctor and I are finally on the right track and the T3 treatment will put me back into balance. I've obviously also stopped fasting and eat when I'm hungry - smaller meals, more carbs and protein isolate shakes throughout the day. My strength has temporarily dipped, but I'm hoping it will come back as my T3 dose is increased.

I know this was a long post, but I'm hoping it will serve to help others out there who may be struggling with their own metabolic issues. Unfortunately, you have to insist on the tests you feel you need. If your doctor refuses to help you, then you need to keep looking until you find one who will. There are many resources regarding thyroid and adrenal problems here.

And though I started the FFF facebook group for women who want to learn about and practice IF and heavy weight training, I no longer recommend fasting on a daily basis. (I'm still active in the group because we discuss dozens of issues facing women who train hard.) I have to stress that, like any 'diet,' IF needs to be undertaken with great care and consideration. If after reading my tale you still want to try it, do so at your own risk. It seems to work for most people, sadly I am just not one of them.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Not where you want to be? It's your own fault.

Goals. Why do we need them? Well, for one thing, without goals we'd likely never accomplish ANYTHING. Goals can be short- or long-term; both are important. Pass a test. Score a date with that hottie you've had your eye on; land your dream job; compete in 5k, mud run, CrossFit challenge, or figure competition; finally get the body you've been dreaming of...

It's great to have big goals and even bigger dreams - but without an action plan, they will remain eternally out of reach.

Whether you're trying to get a job or a date or trying to increase your bench press, the one step that is absolutely critical to your success is...well,  to take many smaller steps.

For example, trying to get a date with that woman you've been watching? What do you know about her? Does she even know your name? If you want to catch a woman's eye, you need to know what she likes; where she spends some of her time; even who she hangs with. Just be careful when you do your recon or she'll think you're a stalker. If you can learn anything about her, you're more likely to get her to say yes.

Your chances in achieving anything improve dramatically when you've done your homework and even laid some groundwork. To accomplish goals in life requires (for most of us) diligence, consistency, hard work and maybe even a little luck -- ok, a LOT of luck.

If you're not where you want to be at this point in your career, your life, your fitness (insert goal here), it's time to ask yourself, "Have I taken the steps needed to get me from point A to point G?" And be honest with yourself. If you haven't been doing the work, how can you honestly expect to achieve results? Once you've admitted to yourself that you've been a slacker, it's time to do some work.

Make a list

Start with one goal and work backwards. What will it take to get there? Break it down into as many smaller steps as you can - and be specific. For example, if you want to get ripped, you can't just write "eat better and exercise." The details matter. Here's an example of a specific step you can take that will help you shed body fat: "Cut out gluten and eat 1.5g protein per lb of lean body mass each day." See? Specific. Here are some more steps that will help you on your way: Train heavy splits 3x's a week. HIIT sprint intervals three times a week."

See what I mean?

Next, accomplish one little goal at a time

In this example, just cutting out gluten could be the first step. Once you've mastered that, move on to increasing protein. You get the picture. 

It's great to have big goals and even bigger dreams - but without an action plan, they will remain eternally out of reach. By breaking them down into smaller, more achievable goals, you will find that reaching your destination is literally as easy as 1-2-3 (4-5-6-7-8...)