Growing Pains: How To Improve Yourself By Embracing The Horse Manure Of Life

They say ‘with age comes wisdom,’ and sure enough, the more I experience, the more I realize and understand just how important certain life lessons can be. I’m honest when I say I try to take as much away from them as possible, but it’s not always easy.

Back in October, I found myself boarding a plane for a less-than-24-hour trip to the east coast to meet with a doctor I’d only known from the internetz.

Some might call me crazy for this, and I may be beyond saving when it comes to my sanity. However I’ve come to the realization – and the personal acceptance – that I make many decisions on a whim, and so far, the consequences have been positive.

Anyway, back to the trip… So for anyone who doesn’t know, I’ll spill the beans now.

I’ve struggled with an official hypothyroidism diagnosis since 2008.

I’ve been to a handful doctors, many of which wanted to put me on various drugs in an attempt to solve the problem.

Back during my original diagnosis, I didn’t really care too much about alternative remedies, such as optimizing my diet, or improving my lifestyle (quality sleep, better daily routine). I was in such a bad place mentally, that all I wanted was relief. To further elaborate on said state, read my story at the ChangeBlog

I began taking Armour thyroid about that time, but discontinued my use after about 6-8 months because I didn’t feel any different. I was still cold all the time, hair and skin was dry, low pulse rate, average waking body temperature below 98 degrees, and generally just felt like crap – had most of the classic symptoms.

It got progressively worse as I got back into college in the fall of 2009. I remember having a class at 4 PM and despite how much sleep I had the night before, or how much coffee I had mid day, I continued to fall asleep about 30 minutes into the class.

I was really embarrassed about this, but it was completely out of my control. I even began to wonder if it was a mild form of narcolepsy (no joke).

Anyhow, I brought this up with my doctor, and he recommended I go back on the meds, and then to up my dosage.

This worked for a while, and I was eventually able to stay awake again. But it was only a quick fix. A Band-Aid, if you will.

The symptoms eventually came back, and my lab results were always the same. I’ve had chronically high Reverse T3 levels on all my labs ever since I began investigating my suspicion of being hypothyroid.

The problem is my doctor never really had an answer for it. His solution was to increase my Armour dosage as well as adding in extra T3(Cytomel) in hopes that it would drive the RT3 down. It wasn’t working and I just kept up this ineffective cycle of daily doses of drugs that weren’t helping.

I didn’t know it at the time, but high RT3 levels can be a sign of chronic stress in the body.

I’d argue most of those who are under a lot of stress, and show signs of being hypo-metabolic (body temperature below 98 degrees and chronically low resting pulse, cold hands/feet), will probably have similar lab readings as I, mainly being low on thyroid hormones like T3 and T4 and high RT3 levels, even if their TSH is in range.

That’s not always the case, but it’s usually how it goes from what I’ve come to understand.

Fast forward to January 2013, and I’ve been battling hypothyroidism with various approaches. I finally found a doctor who not only cares, but truly empathizes with my situation because he actually suffers from a thyroid problem as well.

I’ve completely changed my nutrition, medicine and supplement protocol with the main goal of getting my thyroid back to normal function, and I’m confident I’ll be off all meds this year.

Okay – enough with my story.

The reason I wrote all I did above was to let you know I’ve dealt with some major blows in life, but it’s all a part of a bigger picture, in my view.

What do I mean, exactly?

I’m choosing to look at the situation in a positive light. In this industry, it’s not uncommon for people to diet themselves into a hypometabolic state. Therefore, the fact that I have to struggle with my own issues is, in effect, helping me help others who may be experiencing similar problems.

Right now I’m under the watch of a nutritionist. I’m logging meals, checking temps, keeping a journal and boy does it suck!

I had gone so long without tracking calories, and just eating ad-lib. The fact that I have to go back to the drawing board, and track my meals, timing, and macro composition blows.

But it’s all good because the fact that I have to struggle makes me better. Why? Because of the knowledge I’m gaining in the process.

I know all this won’t last forever, and in turn for my struggles, I’ll be more aware of my what my clients’ could be dealing with, especially those who have a history of chronic dieting and long periods of very low calorie intakes.

Let’s look at another example of someone struggling.

If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now…

I got an email from a reader a few months back and he wrote the following:

I only wish that I had access to the info on your site when I first started lifting in high school. Those early struggles can’t be called a complete waste, however, as they gave me character and helped mold me into the guy I am today. Learning through doing, I suppose.

When I first read this, I was flattered, and I’ve had countless emails similar to this one. As you’ll see, this person realizes that the mistakes they made in high school has allowed them to gain some valuable insight and their struggle improved their ability to succeed today.

It actually brings me back to a conversation I had one night in NYC when I was having dinner with John Romaniello.

We were discussing our entrance into the strength training, fitness, bodybuilding world. We both fell for the typical stuff most teenage boys do. We were avid supplement consumers, often looking for the next best thing.

We followed the latest and greatest training programs from various magazines and online forums. We made classic mistakes, but those mistakes paved the way for us to be in the position we are now.

Money Down The Drain To Expensive Supplements

I am so thankful I bought overpriced protein and pre-workout powders because they piqued my interest in intra-workout nutrition – so much that I began to really dig into questions such as:

Why is doubly filtered, ionized whey so important? Is it better than a blend? Will it really help me add more lean mass than a cheaper brand?

The deep interest I developed along the way allowed me to uncover the answers to all my burning questions at the time.

Trying out a bunch of different training styles allowed me figure out what worked well and what didn’t work so well. In the end, I eventually found myself getting back to the basics so to speak.

In a way, I see this as me paying my dues. I had to get my education one of two ways. It was either learn from someone else directly, or figure it out on my own.

Now we all know that the first option is by far usually the fastest and some might even say optimal method. However, it’s not always available, or within our price range.

And even some of us simply have to take the harder road of going it alone, and failing enough to realize what’s important and what’s not.

So while I find myself getting frustrated that some people fall prey to hyped up supplements, or routines promising washboard abs in 5 days, these days I understand it’s all about learning and growing. I don’t know where that person is in life, or what they’ve been exposed to.

I merely accept the fact that some of us just have to go through certain things. It doesn’t matter what I say, do, or write. Some people simply cannot be reached, and must go through various trials in order to gain full understanding of concepts.

Shoulder Health

Another personal example for me is shoulder health. I never cared so much about my personal shoulder health until I injured both of mine. Now my injuries were not due to a lack of understanding, but more so a lack of awareness.

It wasn’t that I misinformed, but rather careless. I’d go into the gym, and train normally without focusing on things that would keep my shoulders healthy. I placed quick/fast workouts above daily SMR (self myofascial release).

I valued certain exercises over others due to my need to inflate this ego of mine.

Do this long enough, and you’re bound to break down.

I found myself giving all the right recommendations to my clients, seeing their postures improve, and getting countless feedback about their shoulders feeling better, all the while I ignored my own advice.

But I learned my lesson – so much so that I finally saw a physical therapist. Now my shoulders feel great, and you can bet your sweet britches I take the time to take care of my shoulders on a daily basis. The lacrosse ball, and bands are right next to my workstation and get LOTS of use these days.

As a result of this, I’m very adamant about helping my clients understand my shortfalls, and I know they’re grateful for it.

It’s Not All In Vain

Everything we do has a consequence. And with everything we do comes a lesson, some more valuable than others.

Sometimes I look back over the years and wish I’d have done something differently. However, I just remind myself that there is probably a lesson somewhere in the perceived idea of time wasted, my mistakes or failures. After a little thought, I can usually figure out what that lesson was and reflect on where I’m at as a result.

In light of that, remember this: Hardly anything in life, or fitness is ever going to go the exact way you had it all planned out.

Sometimes you have to struggle to learn a more important lesson. And sometimes that lesson will help you break through to something you’d never imagined possible.

 The Lesson For You

Wherever you’re at in your journey, remember there will always be some horse manure you have to deal with. While it’s hardly ever a good time to look back on time you feel was wasted, there’s always something to learn from it.

Remember this: we are what we repeatedly do. Therefore if we want a different result, we must mold, adapt and do something different than what we’ve repeatedly done. Learn from your mistakes, and be grateful for the lessons you learn as a result.

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  1. says

    JC, Thanks for sharing your story, we all have them. You hit the nail on the head by expressing how we need to take time to continually learn through our struggles.

    My wife and daughter both have thyroid issues. On my side I have a family history of cardiovascular disease. Both of those issues are filled with poor science, pseudo-science, and big-pharma. That’s a deep forest to wade through.

    One statement you made in the comments just hit home …
    I’m still experimenting and working on a personal fix, which may or may not be applicable to everyone.

    There are just so many variables in our lives that what works for you (or me) may not work for anyone else. It does take constant experimentation to find a personal fix.

    Keep at it and keep sharing.


  2. Bobby says

    I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism about 8-9 years ago and have been on meds ever since. However, after doing some research recently I’ve come to believe that I’m still suffering from the problem. I’m going to see a new doctor this next week but am trying to get as much information before the visit that I can. Have you written anywhere on what you’re currently doing to battle the problem or would you be willing to share that?

  3. FERCH says

    JC- Have you ever checked out Matt Stone’s site Tons of research on fixing metabolism through diet.

  4. Jenn Diamond says

    I’m sitting in the waiting room of my homeopathic internist, and with my latest lab results showing RT3 dominance. My problems started when I started IF and heavy weight training. My synthroid has been reduced 3 times in two years based solely on TSH levels. I had my thyroid removed in 1999 bc of cancer, but my meds were stable until 3 months into IF (spring 2011). I have since gained almost 15 lbs despite clean living and heavy lifting.

    The only reason I know my RT3 : free T3 ratio is high is because I asked my doc to test for it. Now I’m waiting to see what we can do about it. I’d be very interested to hear how you are approaching this problem. If there’s anyway you could email me, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Thanks for the great info as always.


  5. says

    All I can say after reading your post is “I can feel your pain.” I had a LOT of the same problems growing up (and even occasionally in recent years). After I developed fibromyalgia as well due to some nerve damage I started taking omega 3 supplements along with changing my diet somewhat to include more proteins and that actually helped a lot for me, looking at eating more chicken and having some powdered protein supplements as well. That, and getting into a strong rhythm of life, helped me tons. I sincerely hope everything stays on the up-and-up for you as I’ve found from personal experience it can come and go. Just keep at it, man. “When life gives you manure, make biofuels.”

  6. says

    I’m sure you’ve had many recommendations regarding this issue. I have a number of patients with the same problem, and can tell you from experience that thyroidal issues are almost always a stress related matter due to adrenal and frontal cortex dysfunction. There is a neurosurgeon in your area who is very much wellness and cause of matters (vs treating symptoms) oriented, and would be a great guy to talk health with. His name is Jack Kruse (, he is also a lecturer for Ancestral Health symposiums, is a fan of paleo diet, and has several good protocols for getting the system back to normal.
    If you happen to see him, please share how it went.


    • says

      Thanks for the info. We know that it’s not an adrenal issue. Just had them tested, and all is fine there. I am in no way, shape or form, a fan of the paleo diet. I’m pretty much against it for many reasons, mainly for most advocating the elimination of simple sugar and fruit in the diet. I don’t believe we evolved to get our energy from fatty acids, as you probably know and agree, our bodies primary fuel source is glucose.

  7. Tim says

    Back in med school I took a complementary medicine course, which Bryan Walsh (mentioned above) taught a couple of lectures. Smart guy and probably my favorite lectures from the whole course. That website’s news to me, so thanks for introducing me to it.

  8. Phil says

    I’m there with you on the shoulder problems. Right labrum surgery, and tendonitis starting to flare up in my left. Oddly enough flares up more with squatting than pressing. Time to address this.

  9. HPJM says

    Nice article. I was wondering how your thyroid problems started out. I got a TSH of 3.58 (in the US enough to qualify as hypothyroid but here in the UK it’s not) when I had blood test done, and although my TSH has gone down a bit, I still have a lot of hypo symptoms.

    • says

      hard to say ‘how’ exactly. We think it’s probably somewhat hereditary as it’s on my dad’s side of the family, but probably exacerbated through dieting and extreme stress I endured simultaneously back in late 07, early 08 as I mention in the article I linked to.

  10. Ola says

    Hi JC,

    I’ve been following you from a distance for probably around 6 months now. You write so much sense for one so young!! You’re a really good role model for the young folks out there (and us older ones as well!). I appreciate the shoulder thing because I’m dealing with a rotator cuff injury!

    Keep up the good work.

    Ola (UK).

  11. says

    I was surprised to hear you say that you had thyroid issues as I usually associate that with an accompanying change in body. Happy to hear you are figuring it out with a doctor and nutritionist. My mom has had low thyroid for a long time and it seems she’s constantly trying to manage it as beat she can.
    But yes, these struggles we go through certainly change us. I joined the Air Force at age eighteen for lack of money and lack of direction. It didn’t take long for me to figure out I had made a mistake, but it was too late. For a long time, I looked back on those years as something that set me back in life–stalled my career and life in general. But as time went on, I realize that my time spent there was valuable to me as a person and who I was– and would become.
    Thanks for sharing your story, J.C. I am sure it took courage but yes, you will find that you connect with so many people through it.

  12. Razique says

    One another amazing article mad JC. Thanks for putting in words what we all go through during that journey. Good luck with your hypothyroidism, I may, as much around, have that as well, and I never really took care of that, but you are right : in the end this is not so much about where we will end, rather, how to look at where we’re at. Keep us updated!

  13. Reise says

    Thanks for another great article JC. I like your non-preaching approach to writing.

    I think this rings true for any area of life and we can all look at things that have ‘gone wrong’ in the past to take valuable lessons away. Similar to your shoulder health lesson I learnt the value of looking after my general health through vitamin supplementation and a healthy diet. Illnesses were consistently breaking my stride in workout programs.

  14. Rocky says

    Please share details on the strategies you are using to overcome the hypothyroidism. I have it as well and it is horrible, you need to put in so much effort for little results and in my case any sort of calorie restriction ends up in muscle loss among a myriad of other things. The lack of understanding doctors, espcially for people who train is frustrating as well, as long as your TSH is normal with medication they dont care.

    Best wishes

    • says

      I won’t really share until I’m positive that I’ve come to a solution. For now, I’m still experimenting and working on a personal fix, which may or may not be applicable to everyone.

  15. starwing says

    Thanks for a great article and wise words!

    I was wondering about the thing you mentioned with people who diet themselves into hypometabolic states. Do you mean that you’re thyroid-problems were induced by dieting? What kind of states are you referring to? And what dieting-mistakes do you mean can cause them?

    • says

      Hard to say if mine were truly induced by dieting. I haven’t really dieted in about 2+ years. It was probably a combination of dieting + lots of stress back in late 2007. Did you read my story I linked in the article? That will explain the stress.

  16. Matt Case says

    Great article.

    Your thyroid problem made me think of a great series of articles posted at Precision Nutrition called Doctor Detective. They have two doctors who present case studies of patients who had varying ailment that their regular doctors had been unable to solve. I find them fascinating and I’m guessing you and your readers will as well. I’m posting a link here to one in particular that involves a woman with thyroid issues. I hope you enjoy them.


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