Soul Insole: Orthotic Shoe Insoles for Heel Spur and Plantar Fascia

One of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced is a heel spur. I hobbled in to the podiatrist after months of a stabbing pain in my heel, thinking it was just plantar fascia from baby weight gain. After a foot x-ray it was revealed that I actually have a heel spur, a calcification of the bone on the heel, causing what looks like a cowboy boot spur on the ball of the foot. Yowch! The doctor’s advice was to 1) lose weight, 2) avoid high impact exercise, and 3) wear supportive shoes with insoles. While he initially suggested I get custom insoles, my insurance wouldn’t cover them and I wasn’t about to spend $500 on insoles. Sorry, feet.

Then, along came Soul Insole. I received an inquiry to my blog and eagerly offered to do a review in exchange for product, as the Dr. Scholl’s insoles just weren’t cutting it. I’ve used the Soul Insoles for about two months now, and I think they’re excellent, and here’s why:

  1. They have just the right amount of cushion: they gentle support your foot without feeling like you’re stepping on grapes.
  2. According to Soul Insole’s website, “It utilizes the existing structure of the shoe to increase support to your arch. As it is flexible, it will feel different in a shoe that has no support vs. a shoe that already has some arch support.”
  3. It’s washable! A lot of my other insoles get super nasty from just being with your feet all day. You can easily take out soul insole and give em a rinse to help fight off any funk.
  4. It doesn’t slip. I always get annoyed by other insoles and having to move them back into place, but the texture of the soul insole keeps it grippy right where it needs to be, which is especially helpful when I’m chasing a toddler around the park.

I had taken beautiful pictures and then my computer croaked… and all before I transferred to my back up disk, sigh, but you can see what they look like in this photo from Soul Insole’s website:

I’m thinking about walking the 3-Day again this year, and if I do, you can bet I’m gonna have a fresh pair of these in my shoes to keep a pep in my step. If you want to try custom-feeling insoles without breaking the bank (they’re just $29.99), give these a try! 

 

Five things that will happen when you attend ShiftCon

In early December, I was lucky enough to go to Shiftcon in New Orleans as a volunteer. During the conference, I bounced from session to session providing back-up photography, but I also got to help lead two Twitter parties, where I gave away tons of prizes from Shiftcon’s amazing sponsors. April went to Shiftcon in 2014, and I’m so glad I finally got the chance to go. Leah, the founder, is a friend of mine (and my favorite chicken lady), and I’m so proud of the huge community she’s brought together. Want to know five things that will happen if you attend Shiftcon in 2017?

  1. You will meet awesome people from all different walks of life. Here’s me with Tracy, who I clicked with instantly when we joked about the hotel hallway feeling like the hotel from the Shining. Dark sense of humor? Check. Passion for blogging? Check. Mutual friend of Leah? Check! You will also connect with people you may have met before, and enjoy an awesome bloggy-friend reunion. 15327479_1198311406904107_4270921376446775687_n
  2. You will learn something. I learned more about obesogens, Instagram Pods, and how to run around an exo hall taking live photos while also giving away prizes during a massive live Twitter party.

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  1. You will come home LOADED with swag… even more than you get at BlogHer, which used to be the grand-daddy of all free stuff. My favorite Shiftcon swag I’m still using from day to day? My BeautyCounter lipstick and a bunch of delicious goodies from Bob’s Red Mill.dsc_0120

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    Loving my Plant Therapy essential oils!

  2. You will be well-fed. And you’ll be well-fed with food that is locally sourced, non-GMO, organic, and often, gluten-free. We had freshly shucked oysters, a locally raised cow, sandwiches, yogurts with granola, roasted veggies, salads, pudding… We were *very* well-fed between the sponsored breaks, expo hall, and hosted lunches and receptions. dsc_0232dsc_0272
  3. You will enjoy the sights and sounds of Shiftcon’s location for the year. New Orleans is one of my favorite places on earth, and it’s a city that comes to life in its rich music, stunning wrought iron and brick, and vibrant local personalities. This year, Shiftcon will be in Orange County, just a jaunt down the highway from my place, nestled between the majestic ocean and theme park mecca. There will be something for everyone, no doubt!

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So, whadda ya say, friends? See you in February next year? 🙂 Stay tuned here and at ShiftConMedia.com for all the latest about everything ShiftCon. This is one conference you won’t want to miss! (And trust me – I go to alot of ’em. I’d definitely go back!).

September is PCOS Awareness Month!

Ah, PCOS – the annoying syndrome that most people have never heard of that wreaks havoc on almost every part of an affected woman’s body. Hair loss, hair growth, weight gain, anxiety, depression, acne, darkening skin, thyroid problems, fatigue, irregular or absent periods, infertility… it’s the gift that keeps on giving. But, the good news is, that PCOS is treatable, and though fraught with frustration, it can *kind of* be reversed with weight loss and medication. The problem is, losing the weight you need to lose to reverse it feels near damn impossible, but people tell me it IS possible, so I’m going to be optimistic and believe that.

I always try and blog at least once in September about PCOS, because I think more people need to know what it is, and we need to beat down the doors of stigma. When I first found out I had PCOS, I was MAD – mad because for years, I was the hallmark poster child of the syndrome, but never once did my doctors think to look beyond a sluggish thyroid or blame it on my own lack of efforts that no matter what I did, my weight continually ballooned upwards. It was only diagnosed after gaining seven pounds on a doctor-ordered liver cleanse (where I pretty much ate nothing but green veggies and drank only supplement liquids) that I demanded every single blood test and scan of pretty much every metabolic function in my body. Sure enough,  after an ultrasound, I had plenty of cysts, in addition to highly elevated androgen levels that explained my metabolic dysfunction, my tendency towards anxiety, and why I’ve always lost fistfuls of hair. I also was unable to breastfeed my daughter for more than three months as my body simply never produced enough milk, despite trying every single method known to lactation consultants and witch doctors alike.

I’ve seen several doctors over the years, and while I am fortunate to be in good health, the weight is one nut I cannot seem to crack. However, more science is being done every day on how this syndrome can be treated, and with the help of experts like Dr. Fiona, I do believe we’re getting closer to finding solutions that will work for every varied and complex case of PCOS. Many people want to write off this syndrome as something that’s not important, an ‘invisible illness’ that ‘fat people use as an excuse to stay fat’ (I got those gems from the trolls of the Internet), but the truth is, it can have devastating effects. One in 10 women has PCOS, and for many, PCOS means years of challenging fertility treatments, medication to control blood sugar before it leads to full-blown diabetes, and an exasperating growth in emotional imbalance leading to panic attacks and depression.

I’ve bought many books over the years including A Patient’s Guide to PCOS, The PCOS Diet Plan, and PCOS for Dummies, but I have a new favorite. Dr. Fiona McCulloch’s 8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS is packed with the scientific data and reasoning behind so many methods for treating and reversing PCOS, and at times it felt like I was having lunch with a very smart yet very cool doctor who “gets it” as she explains why such and such causes such and such to happen. I also liked that in the first few chapters, there are several quizzes and lists that help you identify which type of PCOS you have; splitting it into four categories of A,B,C, and D, to help you determine what areas you need to focus on.

Dr. McCulloch is a self-described ‘data junkie’ and you can really feel that in her writing. As a nerdy former grad student myself, I like digging into numbers and statistics. One of the most helpful resources she provides to readers is a chart that details insulin counts. If you have PCOS, you’re likely insulin resistant, which means that your cells are less sensitive to the actions of insulin, so you tend to hold onto fat and sugars in the bloodstream much more than a “normal” person. Dr. Fiona details an extensive chart of food that you can work into your diet based on a low-insulin count for breakfast, and modified insulin counts for lunch and dinner. For example, a piece of chicken has an insulin count of 20 (good) whereas a low-fat blueberry muffin has an insulin count of 116 (not so good). I’m going to be incorporating some low-insulin-count foods into my current low carb eating plan, and see what happens when I start to play with the numbers a little bit.

I also like that she lists some supplements you can try to help with the various issues of PCOS. I have never tried a supplement approach for my PCOS, and I’m thinking about checking out Myo-Inositol and Holy Basil per her recommendations. I was sent a free copy of Dr. McColloch’s book to review, but am not under any obligation to mention it at all. I just found it helpful and wanted to share.

If you think you might have PCOS, ask your gynecologist or endocrinologist to test you for some of the hallmark symptoms. It can explain a lot of frustrations with your health, and with new advances in sciences, I do believe we’ll get closer to finding a way to reverse PCOS for everyone.

This blog post contains affiliate links.

 

Out of the Darkness: Join me in Spreading Awareness for Mental Health

A 26-year-old man paces a hallway, tapping one, two, three times on the door. He turns around. Taps one, two, three times again. He cannot enter his office until he taps away his tension.

A 14-year-old girl, drowning in her anxiety and restlessness, glides a safety pin over the tender skin of her wrist until beads of blood well up, like miniature rubies. Her parents are ashamed so won’t take her in for help until they find her in a bathtub, her pulse weakening. She survived.

A 42-year-old woman has bourbon for breakfast. Her coworkers are concerned because her teeth are decaying and she seems unkempt and rattled. She lost her driver’s license and spends all of her money on alcohol. Drinking is the only thing she does anymore, and she can’t even figure out why.

A 65-year-old woman loses her job, and with it, her access to health insurance. She is forced to stop taking her anti-depressants, and she won’t get out of bed. Her kids call and call and bang on the door, but she won’t even get up to let them in.

A 25-year-old woman has night terrors, seeing her molesters hands reach for her in her dreams. She can’t sleep, so she drags herself through the day, haunted by panic and regret.

A 30-year-old woman feels faint and flush in meetings. She gasps for air. She forces herself to sit through the meeting so she seems “normal”, even though she’s breathing herself through a massive panic attack and feels like she might pass out.

A 19-year-old boy hears voices in his room. He won’t open the refrigerator door or eat any food from his home, because in his mind, he is convinced he is being poisoned. Weight slides off of him and people tell him how good he looks, not aware that he is starving from the treachery of his own mind.

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I know all of these people. All of these situations have happened. All of them are people I know, people with names, people you might pass in a grocery store and never think anything of. They’re my coworkers, my neighbors, my friend’s parents, my friend’s kids, that lady from church. They’re me, and you, and all of us, because today, one in 5 adults suffers from a diagnosed mental illness. I’ve written about my struggles with panic disorder before, and it took me a long time and a lot of courage to share my story with the Internet. My in-laws read my blog. My coworkers. My boss. My neighbors. It was hard to share the story, but I can do hard things and so can you, and if writing about my anxiety helps just one person feel less alone, it’s worth every single word.

My friend AJ and I have decided to use our collective social media influence to help light a candle for all of the people in our lives who have been affected by suicide. On Saturday, September 15, AJ and I will meet in Santa Monica at 7:45 a.m. and walk in memory of the 117 Americans who take their life every day. We walk because every 12 minutes in the United States, someone ends their life. We walk because in 2014, there were 42,773 suicides. We walk because depression affects over 25 million people in America every year, including myself, when my anxiety is untreated.

We walk for the people in our lives who are no longer here because they couldn’t take the pain, or didn’t know who or how to ask for help. I walk for PJ and Josh and Nicole and Dylan and Erin. I walk because in one year, my senior year of high school, I lost three friends to suicide in the span of one month. I remember seeing one of them the night before he turned on his parents car and sat in the garage with the windows closed. We had played Uno. He was smiling. He was himself. I would have never guessed that anything was wrong. And that is why I will walk. Because today, it’s still taboo to say you’re depressed, or anxious, or suffering from anything “in your head”. We ask, “How are you?”, as a form of courtesy, but we don’t want to hear anything other than “good”, because it makes us uncomfortable. We need to stop pushing away the discomfort, and instead, start helping. Be the light in someone’s life. Be the friend who will reply to your friend’s texts, the one who can’t sleep, the one who needs to know it’s ok to not be ok. Be the friend, but also be the encourager. Encourage them to look past stigma, to take medication if they need it, to exercise, to meditate, to eat well, to sleep. Encourage them to seek help. Encourage them to find a therapist, or a counselor, or a doctor. Even the best of a friend cannot solve a true mental illness that requires professional treatment.

I need your help, and your fellow Americans need your help. It’s not just one in five of us who needs help: it’s all five of us, and here’s why. Even if you’re not the “one” afflicted by mental illness, you will be affected because it’s your family, your friend, your child, your neighbor. Suicide makes a lasting and tragic impact on a family. How can you help? You can make a $25 donation today. $25 makes a huge difference in somebody’s life: for example, $25 could be the price of a life-saving prescription medication. Please donate today! If I raise $150 by October 15th, I will earn a t-shirt that I will proudly wear in honor of my struggle with anxiety, and in memory of my beloved friends.

If you are local, will you join me in walking about three miles on Saturday, October 15? We’ll be walking along the beautiful Santa Monica boardwalk and coast, and together, we will breathe in the sea air, share our stories, and remember why life is inherently good, even among the bad times; because we have each other. Please, help me make a difference in saving lives today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking About Weight Loss Surgery

I’ve been thinking about weight loss surgery. In typical Alyssa fashion, it’s probably something I don’t need to share with a small corner of the Internet, but also in true Alyssa fashion, that’s just who I am and as Popeye says, I am what I am and I be what I be. A few years ago, I didn’t think I was a candidate for weight loss surgery. I’d ask my doctor and he’d shrug saying, “Well, you’re borderline. You COULD, but you don’t really need to.” My endocrinologist recently told me he didn’t feel it was necessary for me, as I’m obese but healthy as a horse in terms of stats like cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. However, seeing some of my friends in the midst of their transformations following weight loss surgery has me wondering: is it a good option for me?

I used to think weight loss surgery was a quick fix. Before I knew what it entailed, I remember I once said to a friend that had bypass surgery that I had to lose weight “the hard way”. Thankfully, I knew I had my foot in my mouth immediately once I said it, and I apologized for minimizing her hard work and struggle. Becoming friends with several remarkable people in the WLS community has enlightened me that it’s not a quick fix, but rather, a tool. And lately, I’m wondering if I need to add a tool like the Sleeve to my weight loss toolbox. I’ve been thinking about this for a long while, more specifically, this year as I began to really work on my fitness with a personal trainer. With intense exercise five times a week and following the Weight Watchers diet, I’d see a loss of 1-2 pounds a week, but then the next week, I’d gain it back. This is my whole history of dieting: losing and gaining the same five pounds, over and over, and I can confirm that doing the same thing over and over and getting the same result leads to insanity.

Weight Loss Surgery

I recently did a full blood panel and health work up with a metabolic specialist. She was convinced I’d have metabolic syndrome, or a low thyroid, or Cushings disease, or something that explained why my body refuses to let go of its cozy outer layer. We found no smoking gun, other than low Vitamin D, mild sleep apnea, and my ongoing imbalance of testosterone and estrogen, my hallmark symbol of PCOS. She sent me to the dietitian, apologizing as she wrote the referral, saying she knew that I knew “this stuff,” and that I wouldn’t learn anything new. I’d been numerous times to a dietitian, in addition to trying Weight Watchers, The Zone, Atkins, Diet to Go, on and and on and on. I went, because I firmly believe you can always learn something if you ask a lot of questions. However, I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit that this whole weight loss thing is hard, duh, but it’s harder than it should be, for me. I recently told my husband that the reason that weight loss surgery is beginning to be appealing to me is that I want to turn the page on my constant hamster wheel of trying to lose weight. For the last 18 years of my life, I have been in a constant state of needing, wanting, and trying to lose weight. But you see, I don’t want to do that for another 18 years. I want to move on. I want to actually LOSE weight. I want to try and actually see results as an effort from trying. Maybe the only way to do so is to trim a little bit of my stomach.

This is a decision I don’t intend to make for several months, possibly years, as I am once again trying the only diet that ever works for me, low carb and low glycemic, in addition to tracking with Weight Watchers, attending meetings, and working with a personal trainer. I know many of my family members and friends have strong opinions about wether or not weight loss surgery is right for me, and I respect the difference of opinions, but also remind myself that at the end of the day, it’s my body, and my choice. There are also other factors to consider about the timing of a surgery like, if I chose to do it, would I do it before my second pregnancy, or is it best to wait until after? (Don’t get excited now – I don’t plan to bake any more buns in the oven for awhile, yet.) There are also things about the surgery I’m just not sure about, like, am I ready to go under the knife for my weight? Am I ready to measure things meticulously and to sip water instead of chugging it? Could I be at peace with any potential side effects from the surgery? (From my research, though rare, it can happen.) These are all changes I need to consider seriously, because as a highly analytical person, I need to be 100% confident in a decision, especially one that will drastically change my life. I’ve loosely discussed some of these things with my new doctor, and she’s agreed I’m an excellent candidate, but that we should give it another “one last go” before making a decision.

I know that in regards to losing weight, my efforts aren’t perfect. I fully eat too much popcorn at the movie theatre, reward myself on weekends with food (a habit I’m working on breaking), overeat, and sometimes skip the gym in favor of being a sloth. However, I also know that realistically, healthy habits should not require perfection to see tangible change… and that’s where I need some help. While I can feel the strength in my body from working out and eating well, I don’t see the reduction of my body weight that I’m really yearning to see. And that’s frustrating, when you put in so much sweat equity and moments when you got a salad with dressing on the side, when everyone else ordered fries. I love myself and I fully recognize that my body is remarkable and beautiful at any size – walking 60 miles in the fight against breast cancer, carrying a beautiful and healthy child to 40 weeks. In honor of my body and myself, I want to make it stronger, and above all, healthier. My vitals are strong now, but what happens as I age and continue to carry around an excess 100 pounds?

If you’ve had weight loss surgery, how did you know it was the right choice for you? If you’re thinking about it, why? Chime in, but please, be respectful of both my opinion and those who have opted to have the surgery. There’s not one single right solution for everybody, and we can respectfully share differing thoughts.

Body Positivity and Weight Loss: Can you have and want both?

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending BlogHer for the very first time. It’s always fun to connect in person with other members of the blogosphere and learn from their successes (and flops). I was hanging at a protein powder booth at the expo hall, and introduced myself to the brand rep. “Hi, I’m Alyssa,” I said, beginning my usual elevator pitch, “I blog about losing weight without losing my sense of humor, though lately this weight loss blog is more of a weight gain blog because I recently had a baby.” The rep and I chitchatted for a few minutes, and then I turned to leave, when I saw a girl approach me. I knew she was on the younger side as she had that youthful skin that no lotion or potion can give you back. “Hi, I heard you say you’re a weight loss blogger and I have a question for you.” She went on to explain how she struggles finding the balance between being body positive but also wanting to and trying to lose weight. She wanted to know, how did I find balance between the two and what was my perspective on it all? First of all, I asked this girl her age and she’s 17! Seventeen! Wow! Color me impressed for such an awesome, thoughtful query at such a young age.

BODY POSITIVITY

The answer to this question is both simple and complicated at the same time. The question, if we reduce it to one direct statement is “Can you still be body positive if you are trying to lose weight?” To that, my answer is yes, yes, and more yes. I’ve actually had a few bloggers snark on me for not “being body positive” because I want to lose weight, but if you go through my blog, I think you’ll find my body positivity is pretty on-point. The key to this equation for me is that I can love myself just as I am, and I should, because once that weight comes off, there’s a lot of me that will still be the same. But more importantly, it’s about loving my body ENOUGH to know that it deserves the very best. For me, the very best is a lighter body — not just for how it will look in size 12 jeans, but to walk miles without my heel spur aching, to get my blood pressure taken without anxiously spiking it, to not fret about fitting in airplane seats or going ziplining.

 

Now, these two things can exist and both be true, and that said, I’m a big advocate of body positivity and am grateful it’s become a “thing” now that I am a mother. Images like this make me so very happy, to be living in a world where different shapes and sizes are becoming more accepted, just like skin color, sexual orientation, and gender.

However, I have to scrutinize a little bit about the body positivity community if those who are wanting to lose weight are being challenged. If we’re advocating for acceptance of all bodies, wouldn’t it be hypocritical to be against those who are wanting to make a change to their body? I think that you can love yourself just as you are but still want to make improvements; for example, how my husband adores the heck out of me but really wishes I didn’t need 10,000 reminders to empty the dishwasher. I think perhaps the emphasis of body positivity can shift slightly to be just more positivity in general; with your pants size, your religious beliefs, your diet, your hobbies, whatever makes you YOU. However, I suppose a key difference here is if you’re coming at your body and size with negativity, no confidence, and self-hatred while wanting to lose weight, THAT doesn’t really work as body positivity, ya know?

I guess the point of this is, and what I told that girl, is that you can lose 100 pounds, 5 pounds, or 1 pound — and you might look “perfect”, or whatever the meaning of that word of what we’re desiring really is, and if you haven’t done the hard work on the INSIDE of learning to love the person you are, then you’re not much better off than when you started. We all know happiness comes from within, and it sounds cliche, but it’s true. If you hate yourself at 300 pounds there’s a chance you’ll hate yourself at 100, too. So, I say, rock on with your body positive self, but if you’re wanting to lose weight to feel better or heck, even look better, rock on with your self-loving self. Because there’s nothing more positive than believing in the person you are and were meant to be — regardless of what the number says on the scale.