Wednesday, August 12, 2015

MRI experience

Well, the first day of calorie counting went smoothly! Several people suggested using My Fitness Pal, which I am familiar with--I've used that and SparkPeople to count calories in the past. My heart kind of lies with SparkPeople, because it kept me motivated while I was losing the weight in 2009-2010. However, for this whole first week of calorie counting, I'm going to use both apps and decide which I like better.

I am super bummed, though. SparkPeople apparently made another app called Pep, which is kind of like Instagram for fitness/weight loss. I thought it would be fun to try, and I noticed that all of my SparkPeople "friends" were automatically added to my "following" list on the Pep app. I had over 6,000 "friends" on Spark (I always just added everyone who added me), which is way too many people to actually follow (I like to keep my social media lists manageable, so I don't miss things).

I spent FOREVER going through and clicking "unfollow" to all 6,000-something people, leaving just the 40 or so that I know in real life or through my blog. (They don't have a "check all" button, unfortunately). I noticed when I signed into SparkPeople on my computer, all those people were deleted as my friends on Spark as well! I didn't want to do that--I just didn't want to see 6,000 people on my Pep newsfeed.

I didn't care for the Pep app, so now I have to go back and manually re-add all of the people I accidentally deleted. (If someone from SparkPeople is reading this, PLEASE add a "select all" button to the friend feed... thanks).


I went for my MRI today. On Monday, I had the x-rays done of my back. The results of the x-rays were already uploaded to my chart that same night--again, I love being able to see my chart online! They said exactly what I expected: I have mild scoliosis and degeneration in the middle of the thoracic section of my spine. That's exactly where my pain is (right where my bra strap is on my back).

I was really nervous for the MRI. I wasn't sure if I'd ever had one (the memories of my night in the ER from when I broke my jaw are fuzzy... I think I had a CT scan, but not an MRI). Anyway, I'm a little claustrophobic, but not enough to where I thought I'd need anti-anxiety meds or anything. They had me change out of all of my clothes and into a hospital gown.

When I got in the room, I was relieved to see that they had an "open MRI" machine--instead of being very tubular, the sides are more open so it's not as claustrophobic.

Photo source
When I saw it, I felt much more relaxed. I had to lie flat on the little table, and then they started putting sponges (padding) around me (under my knees, under my arms, around my head, etc.). I was told that I'd be under the machine for about 30 minutes, then they'd pull me out and inject a contrast material into my arm, and then put me back under for another 20 minutes.

When they slid the table under the machine, I was taken aback at how low the ceiling of it was. I was surprised my eyelashes weren't brushing against it, because it was so close to my face. Suddenly, it didn't seem so "open" anymore (everywhere I looked, all I could see was the ceiling of the machine). I decided to just close my eyes through the whole thing, and hopefully I would forget that it was such a tight space.

When I read about MRI's recently, it kind of freaked me out--somehow, the magnets make all the protons in your body line up in the same direction. Then radio waves knock the protons out of alignment. When the protons realign, they send out some sort of radio waves, which eventually produces images of the body. I read that you don't feel anything, but I kept expecting to feel something crazy as the protons did their aligning and realigning. Haha! It sounds kind of crazy, though, right? I kind of wished I hadn't read about it.

Anyway, there was an intercom where the technologist performing the scan could talk to me and hear me if I talked. I was also given a button to press in case I panicked or something. Before each photo scan, the tech told me how long it would take. The first was three minutes, and then they kept getting longer until the last one was six minutes. I didn't feel anything--I just had to lie extremely still, and there was a loud noise that sounded like a jackhammer during each scan (I was given earplugs to wear).

After several scans, the tech pulled me out and then injected the contrast into my arm. Again, I expected to feel something with the contrast, but I didn't feel anything at all. He slid me back under the machine, and did round two. By the end, my head, neck, and back were sore from being in the same position for so long. It felt awesome to sit up after it was over.

I was given a disc with the scans on it... I wish I had a disc drive on my computer so I could see them! (Not that I would know what I was really looking at). The results should be uploaded in a couple of days. I'm really curious to see what's been going on and why my back pain has gotten so bad lately. My next step is to see a orthopedist who specializes in back pain. The earliest I can get in is September 16th. I'm not sure what they can do, because my scoliosis is mild (I don't need surgery for it or anything). But I'm getting ahead of myself... we'll see what my doctor says.

When I left my appointment, I was starving. The appointment was at 11:15, and by the time I got out of there, it was 12:45 (I usually eat lunch at 11:00 or 12:00). I should have brought something to eat when I was done, but I didn't think of it when I left the house. Anyway, with a half-hour drive home, I decided to swing through McDonald's and get something quickly (yes, even though I'm trying to avoid eating out this month).

It's interesting how counting calories instead of PointsPlus affects my decisions. I don't eat at McDonald's often, but if I do, my favorite sandwiches are either a Big Mac or a Filet O Fish. The Big Mac is pretty much out of the question, unless I did a long run or something that day, because it's 14 PointsPlus. The Filet O Fish is 10 PointsPlus, which is still generally much more than I would spend on lunch.

While counting calories, though, I saw that the Filet O Fish was 380--that's not too bad for a lunch. (I'm not saying it's a healthy lunch--just saying that spending 380 calories for lunch sounded like a good number). So, I ordered it--and it was delicious! I can't remember the last time I ate one. I counted the calories for it, and it fit nicely into my day.

One of the other things I've already noticed is that a lot of restaurants these days list the calories in their items right on the menu, which makes it so much easier to decide what to order--I always hated having to look up PointsPlus on anything I was interested in before deciding. It was very time consuming. Seeing the calories right there on the menu is nice.

I think the most time-consuming part about counting calories is probably calculating the calories in a recipe. Thankfully, I already have most of my favorite recipes saved in SparkPeople, so I won't have to do that again. I remember spending a lot of time entering them, though! One of the features on My Fitness Pal that I discovered and I think is awesome is that you don't have to type in all the ingredients from a recipe that's online--you can just plug in the webpage of the recipe, and MFP will automatically detect the ingredients. I was amazed! One of the biggest drawbacks to SparkPeople is that you can't log a recipe that you have entered (you can do it on the website, but not on the app). I'm enjoying comparing the two apps, so I'll write my findings once I do it for a week or so.

Anyway, the first day of counting calories was successful, and I'm feeling motivated and excited about doing it--which is exactly what I was looking for! Thanks so much for the kind comments and suggestions on yesterday's post. I love that I can write such personal things on my blog and not feel judged. Good luck to those of you who are going to take on this six-week challenge with me! Make sure you keep me updated on how it's going for you as well :)

26 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you're trying calorie counting, Katie! It would be fun to be 'friends' on MFP, but understand if you want to limit it to people you're already close to/know in person. To be honest, it has always sounded even more tedious to track points instead of calories, and I hope this works for you. I've tried calorie counting on and off before, and with so many people using MFP now, virtually every food I would want to track is already on there.

    I also meant to write a comment yesterday but accidentally deleted instead of submitting it. I appreciate your blog so much for your honesty. I figure that losing weight is like any other skill and that it takes practice. Even though I haven't been successful yet, I've learned a million ways that don't work, and every time I feel a little better and get a little further than the last. Keep it up -- we're all rooting for you!

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  2. I like MFP as well. Best of luck with calorie counting. It is nice that restaurants are publishing that info. One of my favorite places to eat now is Noodles and Co. They have all the information listed and there are tons of tasty low-cal options. If you have one near you I definitely recommend it.

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  3. One of my favorite things with MFP is entering any packaged items. Either eaten on their own or as part of a recipe. It has a barcode scanner you can use. When you enter a food as having eaten it or as part of a recipe there is a barcode icon in the upper right. Press it and put the barcode near your camera. Voila! It finds it, you put in your serving size, and enter. Done! So easy!

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  4. Ohhh I remember having to do some MRIs. Mine were all while I had been in the hospital for a couple of days though, for either back surgeries or staph infections, so they (thankfully) waited and scheduled my MRIs for like, 3am or 2am or something. Wake me up kind of, wheel me into the room, throw me in the machine, and I'd pass right out again!

    I hope they can figure something out with the scoliosis. I ended up giving myself mild scoliosis when I burst my vertebrae (the impact of the landing jarred my spine quite a bit.), but my burst/pain was lower. I have rods from my T9 to my L3, and my L2 and T12 or 13 (whichever the last one is) are fused together, I don't have an L1 anymore (thats the one that burst), so all my back pain if I get it is in my lower back/lumbar area. UNLESS I'm super stressed and then I carry all that in my shoulders/shoulder blades. but real actual pain is lower.

    anyways. I hope they figure it out!!

    www.slowandsteadykandm.com

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  5. I look forward to your post about MFP vs Sparkpeople. I've always used sparkpeople but I find it is quite a pain at times.

    And also it looks like I'm still one of your "friends" on sparkpeople. xD

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  6. Ugh...I got anxiety just reading about your MRI!!! I'm terribly claustrophobic and the thought of ever needing to have one freaks me out a bit! Lol! Glad your calorie counting went well. That's what I've been doing since May (using MFP) and am thrilled to report that I've lost 33 lbs so far! You've been a wonderful source of info and inspiration for me during this process. I'm currently training for my first marathon as well and have loved all of your motivating running reports! Thanks for helping me find my determination finally! For the first time in my life, I really think that I can achieve my weight loss/fitness goals :)

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  7. I made the switch over to MFP as well after using SP to help me lose all of my weight. I think it's just more user friendly. I also like that it will add back your calories from exercise. It will even sync with your Garmin and automatically load your run in to MFP. I might not eat them all back, but I like seeing them there. I also like to watch my macros each day and see how I'm doing with that. You are exactly right, I wouldn't eat foods on WW because I didn't want to use that many points, but if I'm counting calories, I could fit them in. Good luck! I hope you see good results with the change.

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  8. I'm so excited you have MFP and are enjoying it so far! I'm really looking forward to hearing your comparisons though. I love MFP, it's extremely user friendly and has so many neat features! I love connecting my Fitbit with it as well as the app Map My Run so my runs automatically sync. I'm sure you could do the same with your Garmin. I'm going to stick to counting every single calorie with you and hopefully by the end of 6 weeks, we'll both be closer to where we want to be!! Thanks as always for the motivation :)

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  9. I have also changed to counting calories. I have been up and down in the same 5 pound range for OVER 2 YEARS now. Why was I paying 40 dollars a month to NOT lose weight. I use MFP so if you stick to it - add me :) I am faeriegigi.

    I know I have other issues going on that is effecting it. My thyroid meds were upped for a second time in 2 months this week so I am trying to not get too frustrated any more.

    I also find that with the calories I am more likely to go for a walk or something to get the calories I need to have a snack or even what I want for dinner where as with WW I had the 49 extra so I would not get up to move. I also have my fit bit connected and it adds that in and since one of the many running apps I use is runkeeper it also connects to that so adjust the calories. I was worried that it was double counting the activities but it actually auto-adjusts.

    OH and I follow a girl on instagram who is a runner with scoliosis. She tapes her back with KT tape.

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  10. I had an MRI once and it was *not* open. I didn't think I had issues with small spaces. . . it was about the same as a tanning bed I thought. But yikes. I think because I was stuck in there and I didn't know how long I would be and no one talked to me at all . . . the sound is exactly like a jackhammer. When I was done I said "wow that was like being buried alive under a jackhammer". That's how I describe MRIs now :)

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  11. I use MFP to count calories and I find it's awesome! Over time, I've figured out where I want to spend my calories and it's helped me make healthy/low cal swaps. I've lost 15 lbs with calorie counting so far!

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  12. I used sparkpeople of and on for years, with varying degrees of success, and that is how I found your blog! I have since made the switch over to MFP. For me, the sparkpeople app and website is just much too cluttered. Too many challenges and articles and motivational posters etc! While that was all important and fun when I was first starting out, I just don't have the time or inclination to go through my friends feed or update challenges etc every day. Now, I just want to log my foods and workouts quickly and get on with it! MFP is much smoother for me and I love that they now show you what calorie entries have been verified with a green check mark, as a fellow sparkpeople user I'm sure you know how wacky their food log can be! I spent more time just adding my foods in because I didn't trust the entry! The only thing I don't like about MFP is that I can't make a favorites list like I could on Spark. However, most items I eat show up on the recents or I just copy the meal. So that's my short and sweet take on it. With MFP and the bikini body mommy workouts (free on youtube) I am down almost 10lbs in 2 months and losing inches everywhere! 68 lbs to go!

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  13. It's important for me to keep changing things up during this weight loss/maintenance/re-gain/re-loss/re-gain lifestyle. I call it a lifestyle, because I know I'm in this for life. Somebody wrote that this whole thing is a journey and there is no END. So true. Sounds like you're doing well, and you made me hungry for a Filet-O-Fish, love those things! I really appreciate how McDonald's lists the calories for everything right on the menu board. I did have a Runza earlier this week. They are dough pockets filled with cheese and cabbage, a Nebraska specialty and absolutely delicious. It was too many calories, but I wanted one. I was a little disappointed, as it must have been from yesterday's batch, the bread was a little hard, thus I didn't eat it all, so I guess that was a good thing. I've always just counted calories, when I was in WW, back in the 70's and 80s, they didn't even have the Points Plus system. Hope you consider me a Spark Friend, but if not, that's okay too. I hate to see you go to all the work of adding all of us back one by one, so don't worry about me. I loves ya anyway Katie!!

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    1. I meant to comment on the MRI. I have severe claustrophobia, and the few times I've had to go into one of those machines, I shut my eyes before going inside and keep them tightly shut the entire time. What you can't see, can't hurt you, or make you panic, right?

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  14. I must be the only one, but I actually like the closed MRI. I have had several due to my MS. I like the cocoon feeling and listening to the rhythms of the machine. I had an open one once and I didn't like it - so much more pressure to hold still.

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  15. I just started counting calories last week and am using MFP. It has worked out so well for me so far, I'm already down 6 lbs! I was stuck going back and forth with the same 5 lbs for so long. Like another person commented, I find myself getting up to walk the dog and bike just to allow myself some extra treats. It sync's up with my garmin and makes it a breeze to track everything.

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  16. Does anyone know how to use the feature of MFP that was mentioned above, where you can put in a webpage and MFP detects the ingredients? I can't figure that out but it sounds great! TIA!

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    1. On a computer, you go to Food - Recipes - Recipe Importer.
      On the app, you go to More (three little dots on the bottom right) - My Recipes & Foods - Add (little plus sign in the top right corner) - Add from the web.
      Hope that helps!! I had to play around with it a bit to figure it out, but it's great once you get the hang of it :)

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    2. Just a word of warning on the MFP when you import recipes. Double check that each ingredient is actually imported accurately and the amounts are correct. Sometimes I think it gets confused and adds random substitutions in, even additional ingredients! Lol!

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  17. I use both MFP and WW. I record all my food in MFP and there is a plug in that calculates the WW points. What I like about MFP is that so many foods are in there already. Also, I love the bar code scanner on the app. Really makes it easy.

    I do also record at WW. What I like about WW is the weekly points. I can't really eat the exact same calories every day so I know if I eat 35 points at WW on Saturday that it has been taken out of my weekly points but I'm still OK for the week. With MFP if I want to eat X calories a day it simply shows I'm over on a day like that.

    One advantage of MFP premium is that you can set your calorie and nutrient goals by day. So since I eat out usually on Saturday I set that day for 1500 and then week days are lower. That is better than every day being the same, but still isn't as flexible as WW weekly points.

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  18. I first found out about you on sparkpeople back in the day, probably when you were featured as a weight loss motivator. I just unfollowed you and followed you back so you might see it. Perfect timing for this challenge though as I just yesterday decided to start tracking calories through SP again. My fiance has used and recommnded myfitnesspal before and of course I've seen it all over the web, but I love my SP. That being said, the feature of calculating cooked recipes, OMG! I am interested in seeing what else you have to say about it. SP always recommends the same calorie range for me too and just an hour or two before reading this post I was telling Matt that I think I'm going to try and aim much higher (around 1800) and see what the scale has to say about that. I think right now the important part for me is just tracking, tracking, tracking, because I've just been out of control lately. High Five to being on track!

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  19. One of the reasons WW didn't work for me is that I felt like I was starving all the time. Once I switched to counting calories that worked so much better for me, and I am a huge MFP fan! As another reader said, beware the recipe import, it will put some jacked up stuff in there sometimes!

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  20. Just started reading your blog... I have been counting calories with MFP for five months now and am down 56 lbs. I'm 44 with 7 kids and finally have realized it is time to take care of myself! So I am doing it. Thanks for sharing your story!

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  21. I recently had a HIDA scan (which sounds similar to an MRI) and they let me listen to music during the entire procedure. I think that definitely helped, although I'm not the least bit claustrophobic. (I used to go caving...)

    I wanted to make one other suggestion: I think that as we get older (which we are ALL doing), it gets a little harder to lose weight. I have had to add strength training back into my routine. I know it's not your favorite, but you could start simple - just use your body weight as resistance and do a couple of things - push-ups, planks, and maybe lunges? Start simple - 15 reps x 2 each. Easy, peasy!

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  22. I use MFP and love it and I'm glad your MRI went well!

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  23. I've had several MRI's in the "closed" machines and now have a standard method to deal with them. My MRI's have lasted 30-40 minutes each. (1) I take one Xanax sedative about 45 minutes prior to the MRI, (2) I take and use my own cloth blindfold, and (3) I "sing" Beatles songs in my head during the entire process. Choose your favorite music and then listen to it in your head (without moving). Sounds funny, but that makes the time pass the quickest. One other tip--don't swallow during any of the tests, if you're having an MRI done of your head or neck.

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I'd love to hear from you! I read all of my comments, and if you have a question, I do my best to respond; sometimes, however, I get busy and forget to go back to reply, so if it's important, just email me! :)