Why We Should Listen To Our Bodies (My Thyroid Journey)

”It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here right now…with its aches and its pleasures…is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.”
-Pema Chodron

It is important for us to appreciate the little things in life, like these lilies from my garden.

Last week I made a confession on my personal Facebook page. I always try to keep Facebook lighthearted and focus on the positive. It doesn’t feel the proper place to whine and complain (that’s what my husband John is for 😉 ).  However, I had to admit that I have been struggling for a while.

John has been trying to get me to go for a medical appointment for a couple of years. Truthfully, it’s been a point of contention with us. I kept promising I would make that appointment and I never did. Even my dad jumped in and told me to go to the doctor. I kept telling them I was fine. After all, I’m a healthy person. I never get sick (not even a cold or the flu).

My issue has been extreme fatigue, weight gain (as you may be aware I have posted about this MANY times) that I cannot lose (believe me I have been trying), anxiety, and depression. While my vanity HATES the weight gain (I am a miserable overweight person) – the most difficult has been the anxiety and depression – because I’ve never suffered from either before. It has been frightening. I know that it’s been difficult for my family too. I’ve been IMPOSSIBLE to deal with.

I have been writing it off as aging and all those lovely female hormones that women must deal with. Maybe at forty-six my metabolism is REALLY slowing down. Of course I should be tired, I get up early and work hard. I am a relatively new step mom. I am busy! I kept telling myself that the anxiety and depression was a symptom of past trauma and stress. After all, I had gone through a lot in the past decade. I still was healing.

However, this summer I have been dragging. No motivation and I have to push myself to do things (even the things that I enjoy doing).

I finally made that appointment. The turning point was my step son and step daughter’s reaction to a LARGE bruise I had on my leg (incidentally the same leg I suffered a blog clot that led to a pulmonary embolism in 2007). John was beside himself and pushed harder for me to go. I felt horrible – the look on their faces – terrified and concerned about me. I knew that I had to go.

My doctor listened to me. I explained to her how I DO eat healthy (It’s honestly very common for me to eat salad even for breakfast). I was a Weight Watchers coach for eight years. I have been advocating a healthy lifestyle for years and have a food blog with over 100 healthy plant-based recipes. I wear a fit bit and over the past year it does not matter if I get in 2,000 steps or 20,000. My scale has been stuck on the same number for over a year (after gaining 30 pounds). I no longer follow the WW plan, but I am a healthy eater. I eat primarily a vegetarian diet (with some seafood), fill my plate with vegetables, and I am not a big sweets eater. I have been journaling my food and calories. I’ve tried reducing calories, increasing calories, watching starchy carbs, paying attention to protein, and minimizing processed food. This spring/summer I dramatically increased my activity and I have only lost a few pounds. My husband John has commented many times that I should not struggle with my weight the way I do because of my healthy food choices. For example: while he indulges on calorie rich desserts at night, I opt for fresh fruit, berries, or even raw vegetables.

To add insult to injury, my anxiety is getting worse. I feel like crying all the time (and sometimes I do). Often my anxiety masks itself as anger. I told John that when I was a little girl and woke up from a nap I would be extremely crabby. So much that my parents called me Obstinate Amy. Let’s just say that nickname has resurfaced (even though I’m sure John would like to use other words).

As I said before, my doctor listened to me and after my physical she ordered a series of blood tests and then an ultra sound of my thyroid. Yesterday I was diagnosed with Hashimotos Disease. Basically, my antibodies are elevated and my body is attacking my thyroid. Thus, nearly all the symptoms of Hashimotos or Hypothryoid, I have been having. Yesterday I started my prescription for WP Thyroid and hopefully I will find my balance again.

No, it’s not great news, but it’s treatable. Plus, I have some relief because now I have answers. I have not felt like myself for some time and it was extremely disconcerting. I have never felt like this before – it is really horrible. (Incidentally, the bruising was not a concern and went away in a week. It was caused by all the work I was pushing myself to do – weeding the hoop house and planting 120 gladiola bulbs and other flowers around our farm).

When I posted my recent diagnosis, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from family and friends. However, what was the most surprising, was how many people I know suffer from thyroid conditions. While some people came straight out and sympathized and gave tips and support — I was shocked by how many private messages I received. The messages were all from women who either did not feel comfortable discussing the issue publicly, or wanted to offer additional resources that I could consult. The more alarming part was how many women said that they felt that they were suffering from thyroid issues, but how they have been unable to receive answers. Either their doctors did not listen, or the testing did not turn up any results that would point to their thyroid. Yet, deep down they knew! I gave out my doctor’s information and we discussed never giving up – to continue to seek out answers.

Through all of this, John has been incredibly supportive. I know that I have been a deplorable person to deal with. I am thankful that he was persistent in making me go in for an appointment. I know that if I kept refusing he would have had to really use his “police voice” and some of his training to drag me to the medical center. We were at that point.

Maybe as I move forward I can encourage others to listen to their bodies (as I failed to do) and pay attention to those around them who know and love them. My doctor said that thyroid conditions often go undiagnosed and untreated in women because they easily appear to be symptoms of pre-menopause and aging. Because of the anxiety and depression thyroid conditions can also be misdiagnosed as a mental health issue. Please do not assume, like I did, that your symptoms are not treatable. Do not write off changes in mood, energy, and weight as pre menopause, menstrual cycles, or aging. If you are not happy with the answers you get, seek a second opinion, a third, or a fourth — and do not be afraid to reach out to your community for support and advice.

I will use this diagnosis as an opportunity to educate myself. From the past I know that nutrition plays a huge role in how our body heals and I will continue to advocate for healthy eating. It may take some time, but I will figure out what my body needs to thrive again.

In the next few months I will be educating myself and making sure that I am reaching for whole and non-processed foods. I am going to regain my energy levels and get back to my productive self.

As I heal, I am continuing to enjoy our beautiful farm. This week I have been on a pickling spree – and canning my ultimate favorite DILL PICKLES! I am trying to focus on the blessings in my life and taking in the beauty around me. It is amazing how much better I feel when I reframe my attitude and breathe in positivity.

Pickles from my mama’s should-be-world-famous dill pickle recipe.

I am thankful that John chose me to be his life companion, for making my health his priority, and for taking care of me (in spite of my obstinance) 😉 Oh how much I love him. ❤ I also appreciate my family and friends who have offered words of wisdom, love, and support. It means more to me than I can express.

My man building me a bench out of cedar he cut himself so I have a place to sit an enjoy our new pond.

Do you suffer from Hashimotos or other thyroid conditions or love someone who does? I would love to hear what has helped you/them heal. I welcome any nutritional advice and would enjoy hearing from others who have embraced a thyroid healthy lifestyle.

Make sure you too are listening to your body. While I am ashamed that I waited so long to make that appointment. I am supremely grateful that I did. We are worth putting ourselves first. When we are healthy and full of energy, we can take care of the others in lives so much better. I am ready to tackle this next adventure. No more excuses. I need to be a priority in my own life. ❤

My step daughter Avalon is one of the reasons that I am going to focus on regaining my health. ❤

I need my energy to keep up with Lukas the frog whisperer. I love this little boy! ❤

The tiger lilies transplanted from my dad’s house never fail to make me smile.

Our hoop house fills my soul with endless joy. My husband brought home the bush with purple flowers to plant “just because.” ❤

We planted 20 blueberry bushes this spring and they did well. Next year we will be adding more.

More berries…

and more…

My kitchen is my happy place.

Pickles are one of my favorite food groups. My mom has been known to can over 100 quarts in the fall. I was raised with pickle brine in my blood. 😉

Our hoop house is producing an abundant supply of cucumbers this summer.

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Peach Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, Pistachios, & Raspberry Orange Dill Dressing

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” 
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Autumn, tinged in bittersweet emotion, is arriving on the familiar formation of goose wings. As a teacher and stepparent, next month I welcome the school routine and falling back into regular working, sleeping, and eating patterns. While I will miss late morning coffee sessions pond side with our three noisy and entertaining ducks — Lucky, Dante, and Beatrice — I am ready to embrace the next chapter. Living on a farm I find that I trust my senses more to announce the transition of seasons in the landscape. I analyze the birds circling the sky, measure the way the morning light radiates with a golden filter through the pasture, and I capture various spicy scents in the air. With a renewed concentration I anticipate watching our honeybees visit the gladiolas and sunflowers in our yard (they will be blooming soon) and imagine their amber honey in our mugs of tea this winter. I take nothing for granted. Every moment of beauty I witness becomes a fleeting reminder of nature’s last dash for vibrancy before everything is covered in white fleece.

Lucky, Dante, and Beatrice

The new pond that John is building. It has a “rushing river” (inspired from our honeymoon in Alaska) and a waterfall.

Weather wise, it has been a challenging Upper Peninsula summer. While the lake levels took full advantage of rain, I heard friends and family mourn lackluster gardens. On the contrary, my husband John and I grew the best garden we both have ever had. We were fortunate to acquire a hoop house last year with a grant from the USDA. John, always the industrious workaholic, braved icy fall and spring weather constructing its massive structure and we were able to start planting in April. We were thrilled to harvest broccoli, peas, and beans the first week of July (greens much earlier), and in addition to eating fresh produce, I have been canning, blanching, and freezing at a steady rate. Our goal is to put up enough vegetables to get us through until next summer. It has been a lot of work, but it is worth it knowing where our food comes from – our own backyard.

It’s been a dream come true to have this incredible hoop house.

It has been a dream come true to pick fresh greens daily for salads and have a variety of fresh kitchen herbs at my fingertips. While I always have felt that my happy place was my classroom, I also enjoy letting my creativity bloom in the kitchen. As I always say, there is a close relationship to cooking and writing poetry.

John and Avalon picking peas.

Lukas and John picking cabbage for sauerkraut.

The salad recipe that I am sharing with you today was created in celebration of a visit from my Muskegon in laws. While my husband John fired up the grill to prepare barbequed pork ribs (raised on our farm) I prepared sweet potatoes, cheese bread, broccoli, and assembled a salad with fresh greens that I hoped to be beautiful on both the eyes and the taste buds. I combined fragrant and rosy peaches with earthy and sweet roasted beets, plump and tart raspberries, crunchy and buttery pistachios, and creamy goat cheese and gorgonzola. The dressing honors my Scandinavian roots with the addition of tangy dill (beets and dill are a wonderful flavor combination). I think that I achieved my goal, but you will have to try it and see for yourself.

I made one large family style salad and it served five adults. This salad would also make a fantastic Mason jar salad (remember to layer the dressing first and the greens last so the salad does not get soggy).

Ingredients for salad:

  • Large bag or clamshell of greens (I used leaf lettuce, spinach, and baby kale)
  • 2 fresh sliced peaches
  • 1 pint of raspberries
  • 1 bunch of beets (3 or 4…salt and pepper and a couple Tablespoons of cooking oil)
  • ½ log of goat cheese
  • ½ of a small brick gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/2 cup of pistachios

Ingredients for dressing:

  • 1 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • 1 pint of raspberries
  • ¼ cup of dill
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon onion
  • Zest and juice of one orange
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparing beets can be a bit messy but their sweet flavor and silky texture makes them worth the mess.

Cut the beets into several pieces. Scrub well and leave the peelings on. If you have smaller beets you can cut in 1/2 or thirds. Once they are done roasting the peels will slide right off. Roast the beets for 40 minutes at 450 degrees (time may vary depending on your oven). After 20 minutes give them a toss. Let the beets cool before making the salad. The beets can be prepared the night before.                                                                                                                                                       

To make the dressing you can chop the berries, onion, and dill, finely mince the garlic and whisk all of the ingredients together. However, the best method that I have found is to put all the ingredients into the blender and give it a good pulse. If you want to make the dressing more visually pleasing you can add some chopped dill to the final product.

Store in the refrigerator in a cruet or Mason jar and give it a good shake before serving. Leftover dressing will last for a few weeks in the refrigerator.

Arrange the greens, beets, raspberries, peaches, and cheese in a large bowl or on a platter. Pour on the dressing and sprinkle with pistachios (the dressing could also be served on the side). I did not toss the salad since I wanted the lovely beets, peaches, and berries to be on the top. Serve and enjoy!

Printable recipe: Peach Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, Pistachios, and Raspberry Orange Dill Dressing

I hope that your transition from summer to fall is a peaceful one. The Waldos will be celebrating a Marquette county autumn with apples from our orchard. Since our family time and being self-sufficient is important to us, we will be making apple crisp for weekend breakfasts to go along with John’s homemade waffles. I will be busy canning apple pie filling and applesauce for our winter table. I hope to squeeze out a few more front porch sessions watching our roosters Shakespeare and Hamlet strut around the yard as the sweet hens and Harriet the turkey warble and free range. Maybe you will join me for some virtual hot apple cider? Make sure that you stop by my Facebook page or leave a comment here for how you are celebrating the autumn and not forget to tell me what you think about this salad.

John bought me a pressure canner to preserve our harvest.

Green beans!

Our shelves are filling up fast.

Shakespeare and Harriet.

Our honey bees stopping to take a drink from the pond.