It’s all about the science (oversharing #3): chemistry and sleep and cleavage

The past week has been incredibly eye-opening – and by that I mean illuminating and brain-expanding as well as full of insomnia. Everything is okay again, but here’s what’s been going on. thinner

Have you ever read Stephen King’s “Thinner”? In that chilling novel, an overweight man gets his wish to slim down – due to supernatural forces he starts to shed pounds, and it seems wonderful and amazing. People compliment him; he feels energetic and light; life is rosy; and then…he can’t STOP losing weight. He becomes gaunt, emaciated, skeletal…and I won’t spoil the story for you but it’s definitely worth reading, and it reminded me of my recent experience.

Due to various womanly changes in my body over the past year and a half, my doctor prescribed some hormones. (In addition to thyroid which I’ve taken in small doses for years.) I did my research on this controversial topic, talked to friends who have been there, read this excellent book “The Hormone Cure” which I highly recommend…decided to go forward with the prescription, and for a while the results were nothing but fantastic. Hot flashes? Gone. Mood swings? Gone. Energy? Even-keeled and generally high, especially when I wasn’t eating much sugar. (I ran up the big hill in our neighborhood for the first time without stopping!) And wow, the side benefits: suppler skin! Juicy joints! Actual CLEAVAGE!!! It was quite amazing.

And then, just like in “Thinner,” it was all of a sudden too much. Soreness! Anxiety! Insomnia! Depressive thoughts! Apathy! More weight gain! Everything was way out of whack. Even playing my violin and singing, which is usually a 100% guaranteed way to lift my mood and make me feel better about the universe, was really not doing much for me at all. I started questioning my entire existence. My reading in the book and online told me the signs were pointing to high estrogen. Too much of a good thing. (My doctor agreed, and immediately recalibrated the prescription.)

What I did NOT realize until talking to my trainer Ian about this is how much of all of this delicate chemical balancing is closely related to nutrition and exercise. I mean, of course I realized that they’re important and can affect your mood, etc. – but here’s the actual science of it: strenuous weight-bearing exercise like the lifting I’m doing with Ian, and eating lots of good proteins and fats and fewer carbs, can FREE UP sex hormones in your body – actually UNBIND them so that they can become active – so that I was essentially doubling down on the changes in my chemistry. I was getting some through medication, AND I was freeing up MORE through my strict exercise and low-carb regimen. Basically, without meaning to I had turned myself into an estrogen factory.

Everything is much better now – meds are dialed back, and I have been feasting on pancakes this weekend…and I no longer feel like the world is about to end. I’m sleeping TONS better, and am about 1,000% more fun to be around than I was last week. Best of all, I am totally reinvigorated about music and can’t wait to get back to practicing. With or without cleavage.

And as I continue forward on this journey, I am more and more compelled to keep sharing these experiences – because these issues can affect us at any age. I’m realizing that if I had known more about the complex interactions of nutrition, exercise, hormones, mood, well-being, etc. long ago, it would have been SO HELPFUL. It would have affected my decisions about birth control pills; about sugar and carbs; about what to insist on discussing thoroughly with doctors; about all sorts of things that were just never talked about – they never came up with any health practitioners I had in NYC or Virginia or Boston or anywhere I lived.

I think – no, I am SURE – that what has gone on in my nutritional/physiological/chemical/hormonal past has directly affected my son in some way – in terms of food allergies, the fact that he’s got Asperger’s…I’m not asserting causality by any means, just hoping for more discussion and more HOLISTIC thinking in the future…so that what I consider mind-blowing “eureka!” moments of realizing connections can just be “well, of COURSE! Duh!” moments a few years from now. In any case, I am so grateful to be learning so much about all of this, and to be able to share it with anyone it might possibly help.

On the way to the grocery store.

On the way to the grocery store.

(Nota bene: About to post this, and I see that my dear friend Deborah has ALSO written this very day about cleavage, and gratitude. Regardless of my hormonal state, I can never hope to approach her natural gifts – but am grateful that she possesses them.)

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