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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Guest Post from a Fellow Traveler in Wellness

Anne Wayman's story:

Anne is a freelance writer who blogs about writing at:


I think I was in my 50’s when I first met Ellie. I had been swimming at a gym and wanted to expand my exercise routine. I talked to a couple of the young trainers and they scared me more than anything else. They had no idea what to do with a woman who was menopausal, or how anyone in their 50’s should exercise.


Someone pointed Ellie out to me and I knew we were close in age. She looked great, tall blonde, slender and well muscled. She moved with confidence and I liked her look. We introduced ourselves and she became my trainer.


Even now more than 16 years later I can walk into any gym in the world and not be intimidated by the grunting of the muscle-bound men. If I run into a situation I don't understand I'm comfortable asking questions. In other words, Ellie taught me how to be comfortable with exercise equipment of all types.


I had begun to pick up a little bit of weight and she urged me to work at dropping it. We talked about proteins and carbohydrates and she suggested I work toward eating more protein and less carbs. She gave me a ratio which I don't remember right now But did tend toward fewer carbs and more protein after that.


It was about 10 years later when we met up again both of us a bit embarrassed by our weight but glad to renew the acquaintance. Although we were both in San Diego we weren't geographically close to each other so most of our more recent relationship was done via email and phone now and then. We got together for coffee from time to time and I think we visited each other's homes once or twice.


Ellie had had both her knees and hips replaced and I was struggling with quitting smoking. Ellie wanted to get back to a small farm where she could raise goats and garden.   My writing career continued with reasonable success and some six years ago, using nicotine – anonymous phone meetings I was finally able to quit smoking.


I had no idea how difficult it is for postmenopausal women to lose weight so I ate most of California until the nicotine cravings became manageable and eventually went away. By this time I was close to 200 pounds which is a whole bunch for somebody with my relatively small frame and 5 foot three height.


Although my breathing eased for a couple of months maybe even six months or a year after I quit smoking, it became apparent to me that I had done more damage than I had understood.  (By the way, if you're still smoking one of the biggest surprises was how badly cigarette smokers smell to non-smokers. I knew I smelled from cigarettes but it wasn't until I quit tobacco for a month or more than I was able to detect just how strong that odor is. If you're still smoking maybe that will give you some incentive to quit and you can find nicotine anonymous at www.nicotine –


I figured out that I probably had COPD but in truth I didn't want to admit it.  I must've told Ellie because she began to urge me to get off wheat.  Fortunately Ellie has the patience of Job for I ignored her for ages. One day, however, she challenged me to try to get off wheat for only 10 days and see if it made any difference in my breathing at all.  I reluctantly agreed and went to my kitchen and almost wept.


In that moment I wasn't thinking about bread or pasta or cookies so much.  But partly through Ellie's influence I had been reading food labels for a long time and I knew that wheat was in just about everything.  I remember standing in my small kitchen wondering how in the world anybody could ever get off wheat.  But I had promised so I began.


I took several boxes of cereals to a neighbor which was more symbolic than anything else. When I moved the last time I had a very stale box of Cheerios or something similar, I don't remember – some sort of cereal that I finally just threw out.


I actually managed to stay wheat free for that 10 days or darn close to it and there was no denying my breathing had begun to ease. Not a lot but enough to make me think it was worthwhile to stay off wheat. In fact it became easier to stay off all grains, except popcorn which is another story, than to try to figure out what grains might be okay for me. I did try one batch of store-bought gluten-free biscuits. They looked good, they tasted awful and when I read their label and saw how much sugar was in them I realized that I was better off just going grain free.


For months I allowed myself to have one cookie a week, when I was having coffee with friends. Every time I ate a cookie I enjoyed it and I also felt my breathing begin to clog up.  But I wasn't willing to go into a feeling of total deprivation so I had one cookie week for many, many weeks.


Ellie moved to Oregon and we continued our friendship via email.  She introduced me to which is a site that advocates a paleo diet.  I transitioned to a mostly paleo diet.   One of the things I like about Mark's approach is he doesn't recommend striving for perfection. He suggests aiming for 80 or 85% and that I found quite achievable and in fact have gone beyond it. 


I stuck with the paleo diet even though I didn't lose any weight or not enough to matter. But my breathing was gradually slowly almost imperceptibly improving. I finally gave up popcorn and thought that might help weight come off - it didn't.  I did start walking and stretching with some regularity and if I kept that up the scale would slowly drop maybe three quarters of a pound a month. I'm disciplined about my writing but not much else so it was a slog and I finally gave up worrying about my weight it had leveled off at around 189 or so and I remember emailing Ellie telling her I was just not going worry about it anymore.


But when you hang out with Ellie even by email you get health-conscious because she is, and she always shares what she finds out.  She was concerned about my breathing and COPD so some of her research included links to articles about how vitamin D can help and other hints that I mostly followed or at least experimented with. For example she suggested I quadruple the fish oil I was taking for 10 days or so. She's convinced as I am that most if not all of physical ailments we have come from inflammation. Omega 3s are known to reducing inflammation. So for 10 days I took massive amounts of fish oil.  That experiment didn’t seem to make any difference for me but I hear it’s particularly effective for folks dealing with chronic pain..


Somehow along the way, at Ellie’s iurging, I decided to experiment with a low carb diet. I hoped it would help me lose weight - it didn't.  But I did like the way it made me feel so I've mostly continued.  I probably average 20 to 30 grams of carbs a day. Sometimes I'll feel the need for additional carbs and I have an extra vegetable or potato or something. I'm almost completely sugar-free. If I'm making a sauce or something that seems to need sweetening all add no more than a rounded teaspoon of raw honey and that doesn't happen very often.


Every now and again I do some research online on COPD. One of the things I noticed was that more than a few articles pointed to an amino acid called NAC as being helpful for people with lung problems. I found some articles just on NAC and discovered it's relatively cheap – you can find 100, 600 mg. capsules for around $10. I ordered some and began to take one or two capsules daily.


It didn't take me long to realize that it was helping my breathing. I did more research and discovered that the maximum dose is considered 1800 mg, although there was some indication 2400 mg would be okay. So I began taking it three times a day.


NAC has made a huge positive difference in my breathing. This reduced my inhaler use by half. I can walk for several blocks even slightly uphill in reasonable comfort. If I leave my emergency inhaler at home I don't have to rush back to get it because I know I'll be okay. None of this was true before the NAC.


It’s Ellie's theory that somehow this particular amino acid is balancing out my metabolism because after six weeks of taking NAC pretty regularly I got on the scale and I had lost five or 6 pounds! I was amazed, 90 days of Weight Watchers, six months of overeaters anonymous, a year and a half or two years of paleo and I had not managed to lose more than five or 6 pounds. As it stands right now I've lost 11 or 12 pounds in about 3 1/2 months.


I've developed my own theory, and that's that most people probably are lacking in one amino acid or another and I got lucky and found the one that is helping me. I have a male friend who has some breathing problems and he also felt the NAC helped his breathing right away. So who knows.


As you might imagine I'm grateful to Ellie as well as enjoying her as a good friend. Plus she has a ton of amazing helpful information on wellness – she’s been digging through research for years.  

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