Life is full of difficult choices. Take tonight for instance. The cold weather necessitated me pulling out all the workout pants I'd packed away in the spring that, courtesy of my I'm-totally-trying-not-to-obsess-about weight gain, don't fit like they used to. But I figured anything made out of 7% spandex can accommodate a few more curves so I threw them on (without looking in the mirror) and left for Turbokick. A few minutes of good hard kicks to imaginary heads suddenly had them riding up into places where 7% spandex does not belong. So I pulled them down - just a tad, I try to never intentionally moon people (and yes, I have unintentionally mooned someone at the gym before, don't ask) - only to discover this gave me a wicked muffin top. Thus the dilemma: camel toe vs. muffin top? Which is worse?
Seasonal Affective Disorder With that uncomfortable segue (you can all stop picking mental wedgies now), I am currently faced with another difficult dilemma and one I'd love your input on. In addition to depressing me with my wardrobe, fall just plain depresses me. See, when the light fades, I fade right along with it. Like Mama Sweat, I am extremely sunlight sensitive. As long as I get adequate daylight I retain my usual cheerful disposition. But put me in the cave of a Minnesota winter and I literally curl up in a ball next to the heater on my kitchen floor and stare at the wall for hours.
Last winter I went on the antidepressant medication Wellbutrin to combat this. It kinda worked - it's a stimulant so it sure got me off the kitchen floor - but it had side effects I couldn't handle, specifically anxiety. Being already prone to anxiety this pill pulled me off the floor only to put me through the roof. My children were not amused with their new pitbull for a mother. (Also, the much-touted side effect of weight loss that Wellbutrin is famous for? Not a single pound lost here, in case you were curious. Although I did gain 5 pounds when I went off of it.) As soon as the light returned, I chucked the pills and have been downright gleeful ever since.
But alas, the winter of my discontent speedily approaches and I find myself again feeling withdrawn and panicky at sunset. My therapist suggested I try a different antidepressant this winter, Cymbalta perhaps, and while I am not opposed on principle to antidepressants - they do a lot of good in many situations - I am dubious about starting the serotonin rollercoaster all over again. Especially as they tend to mess around with one's weight and I'm already feeling a little fragile in that area.
Vitamin D Enter the newest wonder vitamin that has the health industry all breathless and blushing: Vitamin D. You have probably read about it in the news as it has been on every website and in every publication as of late. The trick about Vitamin D (why am I capitalizing that??) is that the body can only make it in the presence of sunlight. Experts say 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight exposure (i.e. not through a window) a day is enough for most people to prevent a deficiency. And yet they estimate that nearly 50% of women of childbearing age are deficient. Researchers chalk this up to a variety of factors including skin color (the darker your skin the less ultraviolet light penetrates your skin), latitude, excessive sunscreen use, and the prevalance of an indoor lifestyle.
"All along the northern United States, where we have long winters, a lot of snow, not much sunshine all winter, there is endemic vitamin D deficiency," said Paresh Dandona of the State University of New York at Buffalo, who treated six patients disabled by misdiagnosed vitamin D deficiencies.
What are some of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency? The most obvious ones include bone and muscle problems such as rickets and osteoporsis. However, recent research has also linked a deficiency with "an array of more serious illnesses, including many forms of cancer, high blood pressure, depression, and immune-system disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes."
But does it help treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (a.k.a. the winter blues, a.k.a. the banish-Charlotte-to-the-corner illness)? The venerated Mayo clinic says that preliminary studies have shown that it works better than light therapy, the current form of treatment, although more research is needed.
So how does one get it? In addition to sunlight, you can get vitamin D through some foods like fatty fish and fortified milk but according to the scientists people actually get very little from their diets. They recommend that if you are deficient (and apparently there is a simple blood test to check) that you take a supplement. The current RDI of Vitamin D (there with the almighty capitalizing again!!) is 400 international units a day but many experts say that is too low. The new suggestion is closer to 2,000 IUs a day. Thankfully this is one vitamin that doesn't have a toxic limit so all you Courtney Love wannabes can just step down now.
Supplements come in two forms: Vitamin D2 and D3. The former is what plants manufacture, the latter is what human skin manufactures. Most milk and other fortified foods contain the former. And so I have started taking a 1,000 IU D3 supplement in addition to my normal all-women-with-the-potential-to-get-knocked-up-must-must-must-have-folic-acid multivitamin. I'll let you know if it helps.
Although the truly difficult part about all of this is that I probably won't know if it doesn't help. True to depressives everywhere, I have a hard time spotting it in myself, even when I'm cheek-to-the-pergo on my kitchen floor. So now I'm asking you guys for your advice: any of you have experience with Cymbalta? Any of you try Vitamin D supplements? Anyone else out there have Seasonal Affective Disorder? And lastly, which is the lesser of two evils: camel toe or muffin top?
I too have SAD -- bad enough that in that past it has caused suicidal thoughts and sidelined me from life. A few years ago I started light therapy, and went from bottom of the barrel to (if not on top of the world) back to an acceptable level of happiness and functionality within 3 days. Fast forward a few years later and after years and years of misdiagnosis, I was finally found to be vitamin D deficient.
My SAD had morphed into a kind of full time depression with lots of fantastic irritability thrown in (got diagnosed as possibly bipolar) with worsening in the winter. Started high dose vitamin D therapy and after a few weeks was feeling fantastic. Good moods, steady energy, and all sorts of other issues I had been having (MSG sensitivity, peripheral neuropathy, joint pain) also disappeared or improved greatly. Interestingly, on 50,000 IU of vitamin D per week, I didn't have to do my light therapy anymore to maintain my mood. Usually I would have to start in September to avoid the descent -- it's mid November and on 50,000 IU/week, I haven't need to use the light. Now that I have backed down to 2,000 IU a day, I need to use the light again.
So for me, both light therapy and vitamin D work, but I found vitamin D to work better to keep my moods level and up.
By the way, vitamin D can indeed be dangerously toxic if overdosed. It's fat soluble (so it's stored) and it needs to be processed by the liver when taken orally, so it's important to get one's levels checked regularly if megadosing (taking more than 14,000 IUs per week). Many practitioners will suggest 6 weeks of megadosing at 50,000 IUs per week and then go to 2000 IU daily. Have your levels checked and if they're still low, repeat until adequate. Although 30 ng/ml is considered normal, many researchers now say that 45-50 is needed for optimal functioning. In my case, this turned out to be true.