The new me: Four months in (special prebiotics edition)

At a low point, weight-wise, and doing well enough to earn money in a fight. Woot.

On March 31 I posted this story, about my intention to drop weight and lean out. I am here to report that it's going well... mostly.

The good news: I have dropped a goodish five pounds, after a few highs and lows. At first, working on cutting out sugars and eating less worked brilliantly. I even managed to get down to just a touch under 124 pounds a couple of times. But then other things conspired to interfere with my progress and I also had a few times when I would gain and weigh in at 126 or 127 pounds.

It's tough. Two years into perimenopause I can tell you those hormonal roller coaster rides take their toll, and not just on the body. They affect the mind, too, and not a little. I have moments when my mood gets very dark. And I do mean dark. I have struggled with garden-variety depression for decades, but this is something else. I feel very alone (I'm not), very helpless (ditto), and very discouraged (without anything resembling a reasonable reason).

Fatigue and lack of sleep also interfere. I'm at a point in my life now where I need a solid 7-8 hours a night to function more or less normally. Problem is, I don't always get it. I like being up early (6 am) to go do my jog and other things that require concentration, such as writing or focused housework, before the rest of the crew gets up and starts mucking things up. Also? I've been a homeschooling mom for well over 10 years now, and given that I don't have family around that means I haven't had a lot of ALONE time in the last decade.

And I like being alone. I need it, crave it, can't live right without it. So the getting-up-early business serves that purpose, too. Unfortunately, my training schedule sometimes makes it hard to get to bed early, and so does my desire for bits and pieces of adult life - such as being able to watch a movie I don't want my kids to watch. I often do that with a glass of wine before bed, but (here's where a sometimes deficient will-power gene kicks in) if the movie is especially gripping I tend to watch more of it than I really intended, because dang it I never get to be alone much. On those nights I'm rarely in bed until 11, or slightly past it, and when the alarm rings at 5:43 am it never adds up to enough sleep.


There's also intense training that comes into play. When you work out six or seven days a week, you need fuel. And sometimes when you work out on less sleep than you wish you'd had, your hunger turns into famine. It becomes very hard to stop myself from eating the wrong stuff, or eating more of it than I should, or eating later in the evening than I want. (Oh, did I mention interval fasting? I've been a practitioner for decades now, trying to stop eating before 9 pm and not eating again much before 10 am; it's a beautiful thing, but not when you succumb to the dark chocolate demon at 10 pm.)

So. A decision had to be made. Did I want to continue accomplishing 845784 million things each day and train like a machine, at the expense of my sleep schedule and general weight-related feeling?

I have been hesitant to make that decision for - well, for nearly ever. But something happened recently that helped settle my mind a great deal. It's called prebiotics.

Prebiotics are like fertilizer for your gut, which helps the good bacteria in your system prosper nicely. And here's the thing: I have been struggling mightily with massive belly issues since my teens. I bloat easily, get painful cramps, and the misery that accompanies same. When I started taking prebiotics (thank you, Amazon!), in combination with probiotics foods and supplements, and when I added enough digestive enzymes to the mix (hello, homemade kombucha), my belly started to behave more normally. And then a wonderful thing happened...

My mind started to settle, too. There's a whole bunch of research and books written about the connection between your gut microbiome and what happens between your ears. And I for one believe there is such a connection. I know, because I feel it. I grew up at a time when using antibiotics for every ailment (including the common cold, which is silly when you consider that it's caused by a virus and not a bacterium) was considered reasonable. I don't remember how many courses of antibiotics I've had in my life. It was a lot - culminating in a couple of rounds of very powerful stuff after emergency surgery to get rid of an unspeakably painful cyst on a fallopian tube sometime in the early 1990s.

I'm not against antibiotics; when you really need them, they're awesome. But if you use them too much for the wrong reasons, and if you don't know (because nobody told you) that you'll have to work to rebuild your microbiome after because the way antibiotics work is they wipe everything out of your system, then you wind up with a gut that's lacking what it needs to work normally. Hence the bloating, cramps, etc. Since the early 1990s. If you're good at math, and if you know what the current year is, you'll know this was a long-ass time.

To make a long story short - I mean, less long - the work I've recently put into rebuilding my microbiome is starting to pay off. And where I'm really feeling the effect is between the ears. I still go through highs and lows, but the highs are less high and the lows, less low. I catch myself being calmer, more patient, less stressed out.

And, weirdly, less over-achieving. I don't feel like I need to do so much every day. I feel like setting priorities for a day that are reasonable under the circumstances (such as, say, there ain't more than 24 hours in this one, and I need to sleep for eight of them), is good enough and so is allowing myself to feel happy to have accomplished the most important goals for that day.

In practice, this has meant a little less training. I can't possibly spent four or six hours working out and still have enough time for my other priorities, so I've decided instead to train fewer hours but to increase the training intensity instead. So far I'd say it's working well.

I'm reasonably happy now, at 125 lbs and leaner (also better rested). I don't think it's the end of my progress. I used to be under 120 and maybe that's where I belong. But I'm in no rush, because I finally feel like I don't have to prove anything to anyone anymore.

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