You are the face of endometriosis. If there was a poster or billboard of what endometriosis was, it would have your face on it.
This is what my gynecologist/endometriosis specialist, Dr. Liane Belland, told me in October.
Endometriosis is a disease. It affects 1 out of every 10 women and I am one of them.
What is Endometriosis?
The following information comes from the Endometriosis Association.
Endometriosis is a medical condition that occurs when the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, grows in other places, such as the Fallopian tubes, ovaries or along the pelvis. When that lining breaks down, like the regular lining in the uterus that produces the menstruation, it has nowhere to go. This misplaced tissue develops into growths or lesions which respond to the menstrual cycle in the same way that the tissue of the uterine lining does: each month the tissue builds up, breaks down, and sheds. Menstrual blood flows from the uterus and out of the body through the vagina, but the blood and tissue shed from endometrial growths has no way of leaving the body. This results in internal bleeding, breakdown of the blood and tissue from the lesions, and inflammation – and can cause pain, infertility, scar tissue formation, adhesions, and bowel problems.
Endometriosis is no joke. There is no cure. It is excruciating, debilitating and hands down nothing I would even wish on my own worst enemy. It affects every aspect of life. Day-to-day movement, thoughts, and actions. Beyond the day-to-day it affects my future; my fertility, my job security (as I miss a lot of work lately), and my overall mindset as I wonder if I will ever feel “normal.”
- painful periods
- pain in the lower abdomen before and during menstruation
- cramps one or two weeks around menstruation
- heavy menstrual bleeding or bleeding between periods
- pain following sexual intercourse
- discomfort with bowel movements
- lower back pain that may occur at any time during your menstrual cycles
Most people I tell that I have this disease have never heard of it, or have any idea what it is. I want to change this. Awareness is half the battle. The more people who understand, the more research there is, and the more options there are.
Diagnosis is difficult, and can only be doing through a laparoscopic surgery, which is hard to get into because symptoms can sometimes be treated with medication (i.e. birth control and anti-inflammatories) and once it’s even diagnosed you have to fight to see a specialist for further treatment, heavier medication, and further surgeries.
When I was 12 I had my first period. While I can’t really recall all the details and timeline, what I can remember is excruciating pain, bleeding that would last 3-4 weeks, no menstrual cycle for a couple of months at a time, and then having the next one come back stronger, more painful, and for longer. I missed numerous days of school, just thinking I was cursed with awful periods. I began birth control when I was 14 to regulate my cycles.
That did the trick for a while, once we found the right pill (I take Yasmin 21 now, and have for years). Things were manageable and I didn’t think a lot of it. Once I got into college, I started having terrible stomach pains on my right side. I went in and out of the emergency room over the next couple of years, getting morphine through IV and sent home. At one point at work, the pain shot through me like a burning branding iron and knife, like my insides were exploding and I dropped to the ground. After spending another night in the ER, I learned I had just had a cyst rupture. Painkillers and sent home.
In 2010, the pain was again so bad I was back in the ER, and they were then concerned it was my appendix, so it was then removed. Of course, it wasn’t inflamed and the surgery wasn’t necessary.
The pain continued off and on. In 2012 I saw a gynecologist who performed my first laparoscopy and diagnosed me with endometriosis. She burnt out some of the tissue, but as my ureters and bladder were also covered she didn’t touch the or any other major organs. To continue to manage the pain, she prescribed me to take my birth control back to back – i.e. no breaks like you normally do to allow a period to occur.
I have been following that process for 5 years now. The constant hormones have been wreaking their own havoc, and the pain is still not gone. Over the past month, the pain has been so high I have missed 1.5 weeks of work – more than I missed all of last year. I have tried two different anti-inflammatories, lie on my heat pad constantly, and question when this pain will end.
Right now? My option is an extremely invasive surgery that requires the lasering and removal of infected tissue, the shuffling and moving of organs, and hoping they can get it all. Recovery can be anywhere from 1-6 weeks dependent on the amount of infected tissue and what organs are affected. There is also no guarantee that this will end my pain. I will be writing again about this topic once I have surgery and experience the recovery time.
In the meantime, I have to take anti-inflammatories, continue taking my birth control, try to exercise when I can as the endorphins released from exercise can block pain receptors. Getting to the gym can often be a challenge in itself, and I’ll admit I haven’t been able to go very often.
I was lucky enough to discover and read Kristyn’s blog yesterday and reached out to her about her experience. She directed me to a couple of Facebook support groups, and her story was shared on CBC last night. I am so grateful that she is she to share her story and that it is getting so much attention! This is what is needed; awareness. Endometriosis is hard. When a disease can be seen on the outside, people understand and show compassion. When the disease is internal, there isn’t a lot of information available, and people don’t understand, it is a lot harder for the person who is suffering to make sense of it all.
March is Endometriosis Awareness month. Awareness and understanding need to happen. I want to make a change. Even if this isn’t something you suffer from, your aunt, niece, boss, coworker, best friend, or your third cousin twice removed could be suffering. Please understand and show compassion. I don’t want sympathy. I want a cure.
On March 19, 2017, the Langevin Bridge in Calgary was illuminated in yellow; raising awareness for Endometriosis. I took these photos to help spread a cause that means so much to me.
17 months is a long time, but it marks how long I have been on my own journey towards a healthier, happier, and fitter life.
I have spent 52 of these weeks following Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide (BBG) which is a guide that has taken the female population worldwide by storm.
While Kayla has since released her own app, Sweat with Kayla, you could (and still can) purchase PDF guides for BBG 1.0 (weeks 1-12) and BBG 2.0 (weeks 13-24). The app now continues on past week 24 and continues to move forward as you do.
The set up is simple, each week contains 3 resistance workouts: legs, arms, and abs. As each week progresses, the exercises get harder, the reps get higher, and the struggle is real. Kayla also has you incorporate 2-3 sessions of LISS in the first 8 weeks, then 1-2 sessions of HIIT in the following weeks. BBG requires minimal equipment, and can mostly be completed at home. A set of dumbbells, a kettle bell/medicine ball, and a step/chair will essentially be enough to complete the guides.
I have completed BBG 1.0 twice, BBG 2.0 twice, and am currently joining in on the Kayla Movement 2017, which has thousands of girls worldwide following BBG 1.0, and we all began on January 9, 2017. 4 weeks of this 12 week challenge are complete.
My transformation picture was recently featured on Kayla’s own Instagram which was absolutely surreal! I am so grateful for the kind words, encouragement and support I received over this weekend.
My transformation goes to show that continuous work has big payoffs! As I reflect on my journey, I’ve come up with my top 5 tips on how to succeed, whether it be in BBG or any other fitness journey.
- Become your own greatest cheerleader.
- If you start working out for anyone but yourself, STOP. Until you do this for yourself, you will become discouraged, unmotivated, and ultimately quit. While I’ve only ever done this for my own health and well-being, many women often start a fitness regime for an upcoming trip, an event, or simply to just get back into that favorite pair of skinny jeans.
- While these quick fixes may work, they’re just that. Quick fixes. Inevitably you will be back in a few months looking for another quick fix. Once you begin making fitness a part of your life, and a priority in it, it becomes much more manageable to continue with. Believe in your abilities, your strength, and yourself. Celebrate the small victories – your first push up on your toes, your first jump lunge that doesn’t throw you off-balance, your first tuck jump.
- Stop starving yourself.
- Food is what gives your body the energy it needs to function, to workout, to LIVE. While everyone’s dietary needs are very specific to each individual, the important thing is to eat enough to fuel your body. In the beginning, I was unknowingly starving myself. I foolishly believed the automatic number My Fitness Pal generated for me (1200 calories) and tried to follow that. It was NOT enough food, my body stored fat for fuel, and I was consistently hungry and grouchy. There is so much research available on the internet now, whether you want to count macros, follow the Whole 30 plan, go paleo, vegetarian, vegan, it is your choice. Just make sure you do enough research to ensure you are eating enough.
- EAT THE TREATS. I cannot stress this enough. A fitness journey isn’t about all or nothing, it’s about a continuous process. If you deprive yourself completely from things like ice cream, chocolate, pizza, carbs, eventually you will cave and go overboard when you do eat it. Everything should be part of your diet! Just eat it all in moderation! Finding a balance is hard, and takes practice. We all make mistakes when we are learning how to fuel the body to maximize the effort. You’re human! Forgive yourself for indulging, it’s part of life.
- Get OFF the scale.
- I cannot stress this one enough. Society has brainwashed women into thinking that the scale is a measure of everything they are worth. It’s not. Scales measure the amount of gravitational pull on your body to the earth. That’s it! While people will tell you that muscle weighs more than fat, this is also false. A pound is a pound is a pound. What is true, is that muscle takes up less SPACE than fat. A pound of muscle is smaller than a pound of fat. So while the scale may not change, and your body does, it’s because the fat is lessening and the muscles are growing.
- Don’t let a number on an electronic thing on the floor measure your worth. Measure things like your happiness, your confidence, how you feel and your energy levels. Are your moods better? Do your clothes fit better and make you happy? These are the things that should define you, not a scale.
- Find support.
- While you need to be your own biggest cheerleader, having support is so helpful. I can’t say enough about the amazing women who are part of the BBG Community, both online and in real life. The amount of amazing ladies who continue to inspire, motivate and encourage me on my Instagram account never cease to amaze me. Without this account, I wouldn’t have started the YYC BBG Meet Ups, I wouldn’t have made so many new friends. These friends understand fitness, the struggles, and what it’s like to always be busy!
- Tell your family, significant other, real life friends what you are doing. It can be as simple as letting them know that you are workign on becoming healthier, will spend more time in the gym and be eating healthier. Letting them know this ahead of time may help them understand the shift in priorities and diet! You may come across people who don’t understand, or don’t support you. Refer to tip #1. Believe in YOURSELF.
- Trust the process.
- Losing weight, gaining muscles, getting lean, and toning up take TIME. It really doesn’t only take 12 weeks. You can go on your Instagram account and see all the amazing transformations that Kayla posts, or just scroll through the #bbgtransformation hashtag and be amazed at what you see. Then, this amazement can turn into discouragement and frustration that your body hasn’t changed like this. STOP. Every single person is different. Maybe they have a higher metabolism, maybe they do extra cardio, they weigh less/more, they eat differently. My point here is that you don’t KNOW what their journey entails. All you know is yourself.
- I personally have spent 17 months working on myself! There were plenty of days where I was frustrated that my body wasn’t changing. I became obsessed with week to week changes, which were extremely minimal. So I stopped. I stopped taking those pictures every week and just kept working. It’s been a long, slow process, but every day I try. That is what matters. Slow growth is sustainable growth. Don’t get down on yourself because you don’t look like that girl with clearly defined abs and minimal body fat. This is your journey. It takes time. Trust the work you put in, it will pay off.
- Bonus Tip: If you are starting to feel bored, switch things up! Add in spin, yoga, pilates, group exercise classes, hikes, biking, walks, whatever makes you happy! If you do the things you enjoy, you are more likely to stick to it.
Chili has to be one of the most versatile meals ever. You can add almost anything! Like it hot and spicy? Add chili flakes. Like bell peppers? Chop some up. Like beans? Throw any kind you like in there. Hate beans? Don’t use them.
Chili is so easy to make in large batches, cook it up in the crockpot, and have meals for quite a few days! You can also always portion them out and freeze them for easy grab and go meals.
Since I began tracking macros, I look for meals that I can make sure are protein packed, but still full of vegetables to fuel my body and keep me full. After a few trials, I think I have finally perfected my chili recipe, which I made sure to fill with lots of natural protein. Remember, you can add any other vegetables or spices as you like, and can substitute the turkey meat for any other meat (or make it vegetarian) you’d like.
Crockpot Turkey Chili
- 1 lb. lean ground turkey meat
- 3 c. diced tomatoes
- 1 can whole kernel corn
- 1 can white navy beans
- 6 large carrots
- 1 c. chicken/vegetable broth
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. parsley
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- In a skillet, cook ground turkey until cooked through, seasoning with salt and pepper as it cooks
- Empty can of beans into a colander and rinse thoroughly
- Wash, peel, and then dice carrots into small bite size pieces
- In crockpot, add carrots, rinsed beans, diced tomatoes, corn, and chicken/vegetable broth
- Add in cooked turkey meat
- Add in the spices; cumin, oregano, garlic, parsley, onion powder, paprika and bay leaf
- Stir all ingredients together
- Cook on low for 8-10 hours
- Serve topped with cheese, sour cream, or any other topping you would like (toppings not included in caloric count)
Following mostly fitness/health/wellness accounts on my social media outlets, I tend to know what the latest health craze is, and right now the focus is on collagen powders. Wanting to know what all the fuss was about, I did some research, since before any of this I had no idea what it was, or what it did!
What is it?
Collagen is a type of protein that the body produces natrually, but as you age, production decreases. This is often what leads to saggy skin, wrinkes, lines, and the weakening of cartilage in your joints.
Collagen is resorbable though, which is why there are so many creams and powders now available on the market.Creams are often ineffective due to the fact that the collagen cells are too large to be absorbed by skin alone. This is why I thought powder would be more effective, since it’s absorbed from the inside out.
Collagen is actually part of what is used in injections during plastic surgery to fill wrinkles and plump lips. Who knew?! I would much rather take a supplement and eat actual food than get a surgery though…
Foods that naturally boost collagen:
- vitamin C rich foods
- soy products
- avocado oil
- bone broth
- vegetables like dark leafy greens, orange and red veggies
- fish and lean grass-fed meat
- blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries
What does collagen do for the body?
- improves skin and hair health
- reduces joint pain and degeneration
- helps heal leaky gut
- boosts metabolism, muscle mass and energy output
- strengthens hair, nails, and teeth
- improves liver health
- protects cardiovascular health
- reduces cellulite and stretch marks
What damages collagen?
- high sugar consumption
- autoimmune disorders
Since I’m getting older (terrible, I know) and my production will begin to decrease each year, this information all made me want to add extra collagen to my daily routine, so Women’s Best sent me some of their Beauty Collagen Drink. It’s strawberry flavored and I have been using it daily in my morning shake since I received it. I can’t tell it’s there, other than that hint of strawberry! While it is currently to early to notice any major changes, I am really looking forward to the continued use, and seeing its effects. Since I always struggle with my knees, this should definitely help make a difference!
Women’s Best collagen is soy free, lactose free, GMO free, and gluten free. Each jar contains 30 servings, and can be added to smoothies, or just put a scoop into a glass milk or water!