My Health Wake-Up Call

Health & Wellness blogger Bows & Sequins sharing her wearable tech, including a CGM Continuous Glucose Monitor and the Oura Ring.

We’re calling this the summer I got my health back on track… The pandemic, coupled with some major lifestyle changes, and also just generally getting older has had me itching to find a primary care doctor. Through a referral from a friend, I found a clinic that focuses more on preventative care, versus your traditional primary care. With most primary care in our country, you get 10 minutes with your doctor and as long as all metrics and bloodwork look ‘fine,’ you’re good to go and out the door.

At the clinic I’m going to, I was able to get A LOT of bloodwork done (basically every blood test you can run) and had an hour-long telehealth appointment a few weeks later to discuss my results. And boy oh boy was I in for a bit of a rude awakening!

Getting Bloodwork Done

Ever since I can remember, I’ve passed out whenever I’ve gotten my blood drawn. The stories are humorous now that so much time has passed… From me convulsing and the doctor sticking himself with my needle when I was in high school (and the doctor’s office calling my moms office and saying ‘Good news, your daughter doesn’t have AIDS!’) to passing out while volunteering at a blood drive in college to me trying to switch jobs in NYC and going to urgent care because I needed a doctors note when I was interviewing, and them wanting to draw blood and me fainting in their office.

Needless to say, I’ve avoided getting my blood drawn at all costs over the last decade. Before last month, I’m fairly certain it had been since that time in NYC in 2013, making it ten years ago. And they were only checking for mono, so the last time I had a thorough panel of blood work done was probably in 2007 or 2008 when I had a health scare with my lymph nodes and that’s when the doctor accidentally stuck himself with my needle.

My Diagnosis (/es)

Where to begin… We’re fairly certain I have PCOS. While I’m not currently trying to get pregnant, it is something Dave and I would like to have on the table to consider in the future. At my current state, I don’t think I would be able to conceive so I’m trying to take all the steps to turn things around.

I also have Metabolic Syndrome, high blood sugar, dangerously high cholesterol levels, and a potential autoimmune Thyroid issue that I’ll need to keep an eye on, as well.

I was like… 😱 ANYTHING ELSE?? 

Yes, actually. I also had an InBody scan done and I’m technically overweight with my BMI, my visceral fat level is high, and my PBF (percent body fat) is even higher. Cool, cool, cool.

Health and wellness blogger Bows & Sequins shares more about her recent bloodwork and what's next. Pictured here is a rainbow daily pill organizer with vitamins and supplements inside. It's sitting on a kitchen counter with flowers, a candle, and a Body Love book by Kelly Leveque.

What Treatment Looks Like

Luckily, most of this can be treated with diet, exercise, and medication.

I’ve started wearing a CGM (continuous glucose monitor), keeping a food/exercise log to go along with it, and meeting with my doctor on a weekly basis (virtually) to go over everything. She prescribed me the Abbott Freestyle Libre 2 and I’m using the coordinating app to go along with it.

My Oura ring is also coming in handy to layer in that daily data (sleep, activity, heart rate, heart rate variability) with my glucose data and food notes.

I’m focused on increasing my protein, healthy fats, and fiber intake, as well as lowering my intake of sugar, carbs, and processed foods. I’m also trying to do intermittent fasting at least three days a week. 

While I’m not on a diet per se, once you start connecting the dots of what spikes your glucose, you want to make better choices. She also recommended that I read this book!

This process has reminded me of a book I read back in 2017, so I’ve been dipping back into it for smoothie recipes and meal ideas.

I’m finally kicking my expensive LiquidIV habit and switching to LMNT instead, as it doesn’t break your fast or spike your glucose. I’ve also ordered allllll of the supplements that my doctor has recommended and will be adding those to my diet, as well. (Mainly Omega 3s and a shit ton of vitamins.)

Email me if you’re interested in learning more about the practice I’m going to, I’m happy to share the details!

How Did I Get Here?

When I think about myself, it’s almost as if I think back to myself in my late twenties, as if the last few years haven’t happened. I’m turning 34 in a month, but it feels like I should be 29, like
I was the last summer before the pandemic. It’s almost the same way I will always think of my little brothers or younger cousins from a time in childhood, versus their current state. Does that make sense to anyone else? It very well could just be me. 🤷‍♀️

Back in the summer of 2019, I was definitely my most fit. I was cooking most meals for myself, working out ~5 times a week, and feeling my best in my clothes. Unrelated, but by that fall, I was also at my worst when it came to my mental health. With various things going on in my social, familial, and romantic lives, I had hit another low that fall (after a pretty rocky three years) and knew I needed to get on medication.

In January 2020, I was seeing a psychiatrist and figuring out which medicine and dosage would work for me and by February, I was starting to feel better! And then we all know what March of 2020 brought… Our lives completely changed, or at least they did here in Chicago.

I was doing my best to work out at home (Bless you, Housework!) and still trying to cook healthy meals when I wasn’t ordering in to support my favorite local restaurants.

I decided to get back on the dating apps in September 2020 and met Dave shortly thereafter. Dave is a phenomenal cook and since restaurants weren’t open and it was too cold to dine outdoors after a month, we had all of our future dates at his place. He’d cook dinner, I’d make a coordinating cocktail, and we’d finish the meal with a bottle (or two) of wine. Rinse and repeat almost every day because there wasn’t much else you could do!

Over the next year or so, there were lots of changes with work that led to some very low points and needing to adjust my medicine again, and many living situation changes, as well. And then last year, yet another big change when Dave and I bought a place and moved in together. When I stop to reflect, there has just been A LOT happening and it’s no surprise that taking care of my body and my physical health has completely fallen to the wayside.

Diet & Exercise

Have I managed to get on the Peloton and do a workout once a week? Sure. Have I also had brief two or three-week stints where I’m getting back in a groove and incorporating other workout classes with ClassPass? Yes, but it’s never lasted once I’ve let life get in the way.

Back in 2019 and before, working out was something that came naturally without much thought! I rarely felt like I had to convince myself, it was just something I did and worked into my schedule without question. My ankle injury in 2017 put a lot of things in perspective and definitely changed some of my workout behaviors for the best.

The biggest problem, though, has been my diet. I definitely haven’t cooked a meal for myself in the last year that I’ve lived with Dave, but very rarely in the last two-three years. While I used to be so mindful of what I was putting into my body, I really haven’t thought about it since meeting Dave. I’ve gotten entirely too comfortable with splurging, eating whatever’s around, and ‘treating’ myself that it’s become my norm.

It was a pretty big shock to realize I’ve gained 30 lbs since that last summer in 2019 when I think back to life ‘before.’ When you’re gradually gaining ~10 pounds/year, I guess it just kind of sneaks up on you. Yes, I’ve had to go up a size, and then another one, but it was relatively slow and I blamed it on 100 other things.

When I wasn’t drinking for a few months earlier this year, I realized that I was compensating in a bunch of different ways. Since I wasn’t having sugar or the empty calories from wine, I was all about the sweets. Dessert menu? Yes, please. Baking cookies on a Saturday night? It became the norm.

While I’m all about l-i-v-i-n-g life and not depriving myself of anything, I’ve really just let it get out of hand these last few years and taken it a little too far.

What’s Next

Much like I sometimes think of myself as the 2019 version in my head, that’s how I roll when it comes to my health, too. “I’m healthy. I work out.” My clothes not fitting and not loving what I see in pictures over the last few years has felt defeating, but whenever I would make a healthy choice and not immediately see a result, I just chalked it up to getting older. (I’d think things like, “Back in my 20s, I could do a few workouts and eat a few salads and feel back to normal.”)

I’ve felt so frustrated by not feeling like I have control over my body, but it wasn’t until I started going back and reading some of my old blog posts that I realized just how regimented I was before. Keeping a log of what I’m eating and drinking, re-reading nutrition labels, and meeting with my doctor each week to discuss how food affects my blood sugar levels has all felt very liberating in a way. So much of this IS in my control, I just have to take that control back.

I’m self-conscious that this post will come across as if I’m not in support of the body-positive movement, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. My focus is on my health, longevity, and getting back to feeling like the best version of myself! Just like all bodies come in different shapes and sizes, let’s remember that what feels good for someone can be different from what’s right for someone else. ❤️

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19 Comments

  1. 7.24.23
    Katie Crist said:

    I could not relate more to this! In fact we’re the same age and I feel exactly the way you do about “the lost years”. In my head I’m also my 2019 self. Thank you for being vulnerable and also helping me feel seen.

    • 7.24.23
      Jessica said:

      Thank YOU for sharing and letting me know it’s not just me. It’s a total mindf*ck that I have a hard time wrapping my head around!

  2. 7.24.23
    Jenny said:

    Hi, I am much older than you (50s), but was unexpectedly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 3 years ago ( the juvenile diabetes one that is an autoimmune disease, your body stops producing insulin). So I am on a super low carb diet ( and insulin). I also did 23 & me and found that I had an increased risk of PCOS. But had two babies years ago! Weird! The thing that helped me the most is that my husband has done the super low carb lifestyle as well. He, although he was very fit, was also getting those metabolic syndrome blood results, so that has helped him as well. Glucose goddess on instagram is a good follow! Good luck! I have to say that because sugar is so addictive, it is a ton easier if you cut most of it out. My sugar is getting to have berries every day!

    • 7.24.23
      Jessica said:

      Oh man, I know how tough T1D is! Dave’s twin brother got diagnosed when they were young and his daughter, Dave’s niece, has had it since she was little.

      Following Glucose Goddess much more closely now, and excited to dive into her book! Watching my carb intake, but it’s going to be a long road trying to get Dave on board.

      Thank you for sharing! xx

  3. 7.24.23
    jrm said:

    Insulin resistant checking in, welcome! Love LMNT. Also can’t believe some days 2019 was four years ago.

    • 7.24.23
      Jessica said:

      Right?? Feels like yesterday. I had tried LMNT a few years ago after a girlfriend recommended and I remember liking them, so I’m kicking myself I didn’t make the switch sooner. I’ve just been giving myself an extra 11g of sugar every single day in the name of hydration, cool.

  4. 7.24.23
    Jodi said:

    Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing this — all of it! I can relate to so many feelings and justifications, especially during 2020-2022.

  5. 7.25.23
    Claire said:

    I relate to all of this! I just recently began keeping track of my eating in the MyFitnessPal app and making an actual effort to keep my calorie intake in check – I’m very active and because of that have always ate basically whatever I wanted. Its been very eye opening to measure out portion sizes while cooking! Sugar and sweets have always been my weakness and with calorie tracking I’m actually able to plan out caloric space for dessert if I want it one night, at this point I’m satisfied with a small dessert like a few Trader Joe’s peanut butter cups after dinner instead of a pint of ice cream/cookie/whatever 🙂

    Also, Nuun is a good hydration alternate to Liquid IV (LMNT has 1000 mg of sodium which with a family history of cholesterol/heart issues is more than I’m comfortable with!), it has 2 grams of sugar and a good balance of electrolytes, and they also have a version for rest/recovery that is great to have in the evening.

  6. 7.26.23
    Tiffany said:

    Hello. Love your blog and would love to get the clinic details from you – as I think I am in the same boat. Thanks:).

    “Email me if you’re interested in learning more about the practice I’m going to, I’m happy to share the details!”

  7. 7.31.23
    Jessica Hermanson said:

    Thanks for sharing. After putting my body through 3 babies in 4 years I really look forward to getting back on track as well. Health is so important.

  8. 7.31.23

    Thank you for sharing all of this! I know this journey is not easy, but all of this is so helpful to hear!

  9. 8.1.23
    EC said:

    Yes! I need this advice. Can you share your doctor/clinic info? How to find someone interested in true wellness?

    • 8.4.23
      Jessica said:

      Just sent you a message!

      • 9.20.23
        Sara Warning said:

        Could I also have the clinic details? Have been on the hunt for a more helpful doctor in Chicago!

  10. 8.6.23
    Meg said:

    Hi Jessica, long-time reader (~2016) and I had to reach out!

    You were my inspiration to try out classpass and get addicted to boutique fitness classes (especially spin). You always made being healthy seem like “what cool girls did”.

    I was compelled to write too because I gained 35+ pounds during the pandemic. It’s taken some concerted effort over the past ~2 years but I am finally feeling back to my normal (both weight and fitness level) and resetting the “age” I feel myself at today. I’m now eating much healhier (more focus on blood sugar coincidentally too!) AND my mental health.

    I can’t wait to see you smash your next chapter of health and I am keeping you in my thoughts 🙂

  11. 8.10.23
    Steph said:

    Thank you for being so open! How did you find a doctor? I feel like it is impossible to find a dr. that cares (or has the time) to focus on preventive?

  12. 8.15.23
    Krista said:

    Hi Jessica! Thank you so much for your update! I wanted to email to ask about the clinic as I’m currently on a similar journey and am looking for a new GP – I love the idea of being proactive vs. reactive. Could you share more information? Thank you!

  13. 8.15.23
    Nikki said:

    I love love love that you’re opening up about this! 2020 truly brought so many changes. My husband was diagnosed with cancer the same week the pandemic started and pushed me/us into IVF. For the past 3 years of IVF, I e had 6 miscarriages. After my 5th, my body started gaining weight consistently and I’m now somehow 30 pounds heavier with no insight as to what happened either. Definitely trying to up my protein as well but would love to know the practice you’re seeing here in Chicago. Thank you for opening up about this!

  14. 8.30.23
    Marissa said:

    Would you mind sharing the name of the clinic? Getting my health back on track has been a 2023 resolution that I’ve been putting off… Thanks!