Health update

Since there have been questions about how I’m doing….

Last time I updated you, I had gained one pound. So if my pre-project weight was A, then I was A + 1. As of a very recent doctor’s visit, I am now A – 2. I lost three pounds in a month, which is negligible.

I attribute this to natural weight fluctuations of +/- 5 pound from water weight. It could be I’m not eating everything with the same excitement I had when I first started the project. Now I have trouble finishing all of the food. Furthermore, it could be explained by Spring weather as I am getting outside to walk more than a few months ago. I’d also like to point out that I’m working even harder to eat healthier outside ofschool.

The absolute number of what I weigh right now doesn’t tell you how healthy I am. Just like I discussed in the Framing Obesity post, I might weigh a whole two pounds less than I did more than three months ago, but I might be less healthy at the cellular level. At the end of June I’m going to get another panel done to see what if any changes occurred. Having the summer as a break is really critical to me getting through this year of school lunches!

I’m having very mild headaches that come on late afternoon/early evening. I find myself popping tylenol with dinner. In trying to brainstorm what it could be, I realized that I have been eating a little more chocolate here and there (Valentine’s and Easter). I was basically convinced it was the chocolate until I forced myself to cut it out and, well, low-grade headaches are still coming on. I’m going to drink even more water and see if that helps.

One Billion Live Bacteria
If you don’t want to read about my digestion — stop here. I changed my daily diet by eating school lunches and as a result I had a little more discomfort than before. I didn’t want to reveal that health info (IBS) to you guys, but I wanted to be honest about everything digestive. With those new tummy issues, I decided I needed a referral to a gastroenterologist. This particular doctor must be popular because I basically had to wait a whole month to get in. But I’m happy to report that it was worth the wait.

The gastro put me on this over-the-counter probiotic. I take one pill a day and each one contains a staggering one billion live bacteria. It is making a difference for me – I’ll leave it at that. And I think it will help me to be able to continue eating these meals without as many unpleasant side effects. I think that’s a good thing!?!

In case you were wondering I did not mention the project to the gastroenterologist because I just didn’t know how to phrase it. “So anyway since I’m eating school lunch every day…” or “Yes, so now that I’m eating school pizza once a week and…” or “Ever since I started eating processed meat for lunch…” How does one segway into that kind of discussion?

I feel very tired. I can’t say it’s the lunches though because I am basically working a full-time job, coming home to parent, to cook, and to straighten the house up, and then I sit down when everyone is sleeping and I blog. It’s like working a 16 hour day. I rely on getting naps in on the weekends to recharge.

Concentration and focus
I do find myself fading mid- to late-afternoon at work and I’m pretty hungry by 3:30 pm. I keep snacks in my car that I nibble on while driving home. I eat almonds, walnuts, and cashews as well as granola bars. The nuts give me protein to fill me up and balance out my blood sugar so that I can make it to dinner.

To summarize
Like I have said before how I feel is not as important as how my students feel. Their lives outside of school are big question marks for me. I know some family dynamics for various students and I wonder what they are (or aren’t) eating when they get home. I just don’t know. I can only guess.

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36 thoughts on “Health update

  1. Of course you are run-down right now. You are a teacher and it is April. You can almost smell the end of the school year. Most people do not understand that teaching is a 24-7 job during the school year, and with reeducation and workshops it's still full-time in the summer as well. I found it so exhausting that I did nothing but sleep and eat a little the first week after school got out. Don't know what I would have done if I had to be a parent as well.

    For many of your students, school lunch may be the only nutritionally-balanced meal they have during a regular day. I taught in a public school, and many of the kids on the free lunch program would have two meals (breakfast and lunch) at school, then go home to chips and soda. The fact that the school meals now are not the best choice for kids should scare us all.

  2. I'm loving the blog. And I agree with the above poster: it's April and you are both a teacher and a mother. No wonder you are exhausted! There are only 29 more days of school for me, praise Jesus. And then there is the summer so I can get my body healthy again.

  3. I'm a teacher with two kids who never eats the school lunches, but oh goodness, I find myself dragging at this time of year! The kids are a handful, your own kids are full of energy, and it's just hard.
    Hang in there. Summer will be here before you know it, and just remember, you are doing something amazing here–something I wish I'd had the courage to do. You're making a difference in the classroom AND in the lunch room. Bravo.

  4. I'm a teacher and mom, as well, and wanted to say that "run-down" likely has nothing to do with school lunch. 🙂 I eat at school, but usually from the teacher's salad bar- and I must say, our school serves meals made from scratch most of the time- none of that re-heated stuff… so even if I eat from the lunch line occasionally, I feel OK about it. LOL

  5. Hello.

    I am a school teacher who also has an issue with IBS.

    Let me be a little blunt, you really NEED to tell your gastro about your school lunch project. The ingredients in your diet have changed significantly and this WILL have a direct effect on your IBS.

    I took Align for a few months and it made me worse. I've found that the Activa yogurt I get at the grocery store is wonderful.

    Thanks for a good blog and a great story.

    A teacher in the southeast. Oh, and I am a gentleman.

  6. I just thought I would let you know, that there is a website called Consumer Lab. Over the counter supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so Consumer Lab (an independent lab paid for by subscriptions to their website) tests various products.

    Anyways, I have a subscription to Consumer Lab and use it to check up on the supplements and vitamins I take. I looked up your over the counter probiotic and in the most recent consumer lab study on it found that rather than 1 billion live bacteria, only 530 million were viable.

    However, they also concluded that a dose of 100 million is enough to work, so I guess it doesn't really make a difference.

    Just thought I would tell you about the site, especially if you (or others) frequently use other supplements, you can check up on them. They test things for mercury and lead levels as well.

    It amazes me what their results show for some supplements. Some of the other supplements only contained 7-13% of the bacterial content they claimed!

  7. Thanks for the update. I get headaches from food preservatives so those may be a likely culprit. Sorry this experiment has been hard on you. I'm sure all of us appreciate your sacrifice so much as it has been so eye-opening for us. Hope you feel better when this is all over.

  8. You're hungry because you're eating a lunch that is calibrated for a child.

    You're likely not getting enough calories to sustain you until dinner.

  9. If you're taking a lot of Tylenol (more than 2 pills) maybe you should try Aleve. I have chronic pain (yay Lyrica!) which results in constant headaches and Tylenol doesn't work as weel as Aleve does for me and you don't have to take as many. Also, have you looked into taking prebiotics as well as probiotics. I find that these greatly increase the usefulness of probioics (I take the Phillip's capsules for probis). It's great that you're keeping up with almonds, a handful a day has a good deal of vitamin E which is always good. Final comment: How have the ads been working out? Are you planning an overview of revenue generation anytime soon or planning on keeping that private? Sorry, I'm just curious how good AdSense does.

  10. I'm not sure tylenol is really doing the trick for headaches. An NSAID like ibuprofen or aleve is more likely to get at the root of a headache. If you haven't ever tried one of those before, I think it's worth a shot.

    I also think drinking more liquids is a great idea. I know when I was in school, I'd always be so dehydrated after school because I didn't really drink that much at lunch. I can only imagine how that translates for a teacher.

  11. Jennalynn – aren't child-calibrated lunches supposed to contain more calories per meal than what an adult needs because they're meant for growing children who burn more off than adults do? By all means, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think school lunches are meant to be higher in calories in consideration of children's metabolism, especially if it's the only meal they might get for the day.

    Mrs Q. – Hang in there! I'm sorry to hear about your headaches. :/ Water sounds like a good plan, though, so I hope that ends up solving the problem. As for introducing bacteria into your diet, have you tried yogurt? I'm not an expert on the subject, but some yogurts contain live & active cultures that help with digestion (like it was already mentioned, Activia is one). I don't know if the amount in a given cup of yogurt is equal to what's provided by the pill you're taking, but it might be worth a look into if you want to try something new.

  12. Your headaches might be caused by low blood sugar. The foods you are eating at lunch are simple carbohydrates, so they don't stick with you as long as a good protein, or a fiber-rich, high-glycemic-index carb. However, fat does slow down the absorption of the carbs … are the headaches as bad on the days that the meals are particularly high in fat?

    The carbs are likely causing a quick spike in insulin production as you body tries to compensate for the rush of sugar. This, in turn, drops you blood sugar level quickly, causing the headache.

    You probably need a snack about an hour before the headache starts.

  13. Just reading about your project now. We have four school age children. Our oldest daughter is in 8th grade. We noticed a couple of months ago that she was beginning to have more noticeable problems with acne when she ate school lunches. Since then, she's been packing her lunch and guess what? The acne has cleared up!

    Unfortunately, this is not an easy fix problem. Your efforts, along with many others, however, will make a difference.


  14. I get headaches if I don't eat right – like skip a meal or just eat rice or salad (I have a lot of food allergies, so sometimes I find I cannot eat what is available). After I eat something balanced (i.e. small carb, protein, vegetable) I usually feel better.

  15. Reading your blog, I can't help but worry a little about your continuing health, so thank you very much for the update. I do hope you can get on top of all the nasty symptoms.
    I can imagine how much energy this blog takes on top of teaching (I have taught and I now blog in a MUCH quieter way than you!) so I am really glad how well you are caring for yourself. All mu best wishes!

  16. I wish you had done some bloodwork at the beginning of the experiment, and had it repeated at the end, to make comparisons. I'd be interested to see if things like lipids and LFT's (liver function) changed after eating the lunches. Most things probably wouldn't change much, but it would be interesting to see objective numbers.

  17. I am so glad you wrote this post. It really makes the point that you dont have to be gaining weight to be affected by what you are consuming.

  18. Anonymous — I actually did have bloodwork done in December to get a discount on our health insurance so I will be able to make comparisons. I'm very curious too.

  19. If you're taking pain killers at the same time each night, it could be rebound headaches. The only way to get rid of them is to go off the pain killers and suffer with the pain for a few days until your body adjusts.

    Been there.

  20. I just have to say, I stumbled across this blog while looking around on the Laptop Lunches Fan page. I am appalled at the food that is served to the kids and the fact that it is prepackaged like a TV dinner.

    I know that parents in the school district that I live in have issues with the school lunch…but at least it's cooked in a kitchen within the school district (ie the elementary schools get theirs from the high schools and jr highs where they are cooked daily). yes the food is canned, but lately the menus have had healthier choices such as whole wheat breads, brown rice and more grilled meats. I have eaten them at times and they were not half bad.

    I feel for the children that you are teaching and it's a wonder why test scores and academic achievement has been in a decline in this nation. Good luck in your endeavor and I hope that you can get rid of the pre-packed food/luchables from your school

  21. Just a word – and a piece of advise – for encouragement. You are doing a great job! And give flax seed a try for the IBS. 🙂

  22. I think it's important that you talk to your GI about your project, and you can do it this way. Remember that your medical discussions with your GI are private, and he can lose his license for outing you (and he knows this), so you can discuss your project with him freely:

    "Have you seen those news reports about the teacher who's eating school lunches every day for a year, and blogging about the horrible food? She's calling herself Mrs. Q. Yeah, you've seen those? Well, I'm Mrs. Q. And you need to know that because what I eat seems to be affecting my IBS."


  23. I get headaches from eating too much processed foods, so I cut them out of my diet wherever and whenever I have been able to. Made a huge difference to my overall well being.

  24. I would just like to say that I appreciate your efforts, and I think this is a wonderful project. I'm glad there are people working from inside the educational system that want to bring attention (and eventually help implement changes) to some of the negative aspects of the system – school lunches, for instance.

    Have you considered taking some vegetarian options on days when the meat option is a beef patty?

  25. Glad to hear the probiotics are helping. Add some live culture yogurt to your evening meal or post school snack. That will help too.

    Just a thought about the headaches. It may be a variety of things, processed foods, additives,e tc. Or it may be a blood pressure issue. Is your blood pressure in normal range? If not, those headaches could be a precursor to serious side effects. Keep in mind the sodium content you've been consuming. Go to the school nurse and get your blood pressure checked a couple days in a row. It's it's above normal, get to your doctor pronto. (And tell him about your food project too. He needs to know about the food you've been consuming.)

    Take care and get that blood pressure checked. (please)

  26. Summer is on the horizon. I am a teacher plus I have a second job so I understand the lack of sleep and I don't even have my own children yet.

    I agree that your weight is just a number on a scale and not a true picture of health. Headaches, digestive troubles, and fatigue seem to be more indicative of what is going on in your body.

    In the last year I battled my own IBS and excessive tiredness issues. After going through a battery of tests, and my own research, I tried eliminating fake sugar. No more splenda, nutrasweet apartame or "diet" anything. After getting over my diet coke withdrawal, all my symptoms disappeared. Something to experiment with perhaps.

    Hopefully your health troubles don't get you down. June will be here before you know it!

  27. Another thing that helps with food-related indigestion is carbon pills. You can get them OTC at any drugstore and they work wonders. We always have some on hand for when we end up eating junk food.

  28. I used to get headaches all the time in high school. But, I didn't eat the school lunch. If I didn't bring something to eat for lunch I usually went without. My doctor said they were from the fluorescent lights everyone uses in large buildings like schools. But I work under them all the time now, too, so I don't think its that, I think it was blood-sugar related.
    My siblings and I were always ravenous getting off the bus at 430 in the evening and they ate school lunches. Like I said above, I didn't eat school lunches but I didn't always eat lunch either. But I think school lunches are synonymous with weak filler for cheap. There probably isn't much protein or fiber in those meals to fill a kid up and keep them going. I love how some people equate cheap sugar for energy and never research what happens 2 hours later. That is one heck of a crash.
    I take several different probiotics because I live in a carnivorous household and I am very herbivorous. I down a liquid acidophilus, Align, reuteri and a blend of bifidus and some others to keep my gastrointestinal issues in order. I read somewhere that Rh factor and something else can determine some digestive issues from the sstart. I don't remember where I read that, though.
    I am enjoying this blog more and more.
    Keep it up!

  29. my first thought when i read about headaches: is there MSG in the school lunch food? i would bet my eye teeth that there is. msg gives me such severe headaches that i throw up. i'd be willing to bet you're allergic to something in your lunch food-probably a preservative.

  30. Mrs. Q –
    I follow your blog everyday! I am a health care provider (I work in preventative medicine) and I was waiting to hear about your visit with the Gastro! You most certainly need to tell the doctor about your dietary changes. (Don't worry about maintaining anonymity, your doctor won't tell!)
    I'm guessing that your headaches are coming from a drop in blood sugar. The foods you are eating probably cause a spike in your level, causing you to crash in the afternoon. Please eat more during the day! (High protein, high fiber!)
    Keep fighting the good fight!

  31. I wish you had been explicit with your physician about dietary changes, that is key to their diagnostic abilities. Withholding important information doesn't help anyone, and could wind up with substantially-increased costs associated with your treatment for unnecessary bloodwork, imaging studies, and pathology labs, not to mention you taking medication to treat symptoms without a valid diagnosis.

  32. IBS is often confused with an overgrowth of Candida bacteria in the stomach. Candida feeds off of sugar and yeast, so the food you are eating is perfect to cause an overgrowth. If you google Candida, there are many websites with information on how to cleanse yourself of the Candida and eliminate or lessen stomach issues.

  33. This isn't the case for those who are underweight going in, nor is it the case for those that continue to overfeed with steel will for many months on end. But the higher the body temp., the easier it is to lose fat. That is simple physiology. You can always go Sumo and continue to overfeed, but that is not the natural inclination given adequate time. I've certainly gone through impressive body recomposition since becoming hunger and overexercise phobic 3 years ago. Sure, if I would've lifted weights throughout it might have been somewhat more impressive, but I'm not a bodybuilder.

  34. I am a 7th grade student and have had to suffer through school lunches for about 1 year. My mom recently got a job so packing my lunch has been to hard. At school the majority of students around me eat 2 bits of the entree( mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, fake beef, etc) while making a face. Then promptly throw it out. Sometimes kids don't even buy lunch. Food at our school is fake, rubbery, frozen, or funky smelling. A recent addition has been California Rolls, a daring friend of mine got them and then shared with us, it was frozen and bitter. Mac and cheese is rubbery and the cheese on it like glue when you eat it. I try to eat something but the only edible thing is the extras- cookies, name brand chips, milkshakes,popcorn,or something along those lines. For me cookies are unbearable, the majority of the student population prefers the cookies doughy, I am the rare person who wants things crunchy. Our lunch time is about 30-45 minutes but it takes about 5 minutes to start dismissing the first group, those who are a the end of the cycle(it changes week to week) have about 15 minutes to eat lunch. At the end of each lunch we have table captains that are changed every week. When we have ketchup or some sauce its so gross to take up someone elses tray, with a gooey substance dripping off of it. After schools decided Middle Schools and High schools should not have recess they then soon followed with gym being optional. So now our only exercise is the 3 minutes we have to walk from class to class. I just want our schools to make our environment a tad bit healthier and a little less fake.

  35. Brilliant! Cheers! is going on a sabbatical. By that I mean I won’t be updating it for a bit until I decide what I’m doing with the site. I appreciate all the comments and all the visitors I’ve had but I feel like my blog has been sadly scattered over things I find interesting without developing a voice of its own. It will be reincarnated into something more focused shortly  but in the meantime, feel free to peruse the brilliant posts made and wait with bated breath for the supercalifragilistic reincarnation…

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