Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happiness Project: Energy & Vitamins

I’m following along on Gretchen Rubin’s “Happiness Project” challenge. Here’s my second installment:

I am not what you would call a “high energy” person. I am a card-carrying introvert who feels drained by sustained contact with people, and I hate anything that requires groups (including sports). I do not like exercise, and contrary to all published scientific studies I do not find that it gives me more energy. Mostly, it leaves me tired, hungry, cranky, and annoyed that after half an hour on an exercise bike my thighs are not visibly smaller. For whatever long-repressed reason, I require immediate gratification, and exercise just doesn’t cut it. I also seem to never be able to get enough sleep, so much so my doctor had me tested for sleep apnea last year. The tests found no medical reasons for my poor quality sleep, but did show that I don’t spend a lot of time in deep sleep (which explains why I dream so much).

But I had finally had it with feeling so dragged down all the time, and so a few weeks ago I started doing something I’d been meaning to do for years: take a multi-vitamin every day. Now, there’s a lot of conflicting thoughts about vitamins and whether they are truly effective. This is something people need to research for themselves and discuss with their doctor (personally, I liked this “plain English” analysis here at the Harvard School of Public Health's website.)

My own doctor had encouraged me to take a multi-vitamin, partly because of my terrible eating habits but also because I live in the northeast, where most people have a Vitamin D deficiency in the winter, plus I’m at risk for osteoporosis. I had tried taking vitamins before, but stopped after a day or two because they made me terribly sick to my stomach. I discovered that this is not uncommon, and that taking them after I’ve eaten lunch (my main meal of the day) made a world of difference.

The first vitamin I tried was one I had bought awhile ago, some sort of “active woman” formula with a bunch of dietary supplements in addition to your regular vitamins and minerals (stuff like black cohosh and chasteberry extract). You were supposed to take 3 of these pills each day, which included 3333% Vitamin B-1 and B-12, 500% Manganese, and 417% Vitamin C. After three days of taking just one pill per day, I was completely hyper (probably due to the high vitamin B content). As I started reading about some of the supplements in the pills I got a little bit leery of what I might be introducing into my system, and I also realized that this formula included iron. I knew that my iron levels were fine, as I had been tested for anemia awhile back, and I learned that too much iron can be a bad thing (unlike too much vitamin B, which our bodies just expel). I switched to a more traditional multi-vitamin (the one pill a day that has about 100% of everything) that did not contain iron, and that appears to be a better choice for me – no feeling hyper.

The other good thing about the traditional multi-vitamin? It only cost $6.99 at Whole Foods for 90 pills ( the “365” store brand).

After three weeks, I definitely feel better (or did, anyway, until I caught this horrible cold that I am still fighting). I’m still not about to go run a marathon, but I do have a bit more energy. I also seem to not be eating as much, and I can’t help but wonder if I’ve been overeating because my body was just trying to nourish itself, and now that it’s getting basic nutrients it’s requiring less food. (My pants, alas, are not any roomier, but there was an entire tray of baklava at my disposal over Christmas.) I also feel like my head is much clearer, with much less brain fog.

So, all in all, an excellent baby step towards feeling better. Now the challenge is to keep remembering to take them!


Karen said...

Hey, it's a positive step and that's always a good thing! I don't take vitamins but I do eat really good (vegetarian) so hopefully that makes up for it! Good luck to you.

Gretchen said...

I saw the nice mention of my blog, The Happiness Project, here. I very much appreciate those kind words and you shinning a spotlight on my work. Thanks and best wishes,