About a year ago I started to feel like something was wrong with me. Sometimes it presented itself as straightforward health and wellness issues. At other times, I just knew I didn't feel like the person I had been my whole life. My doctors would give me something to treat my symptoms, or even just refer me to another doctor for something else (forget looking at the whole picture). Then, about a month and a half ago, I got fed up with it. I started doing a lot of my own research and decided to make some major diet changes. What followed was an epiphany. Whatever the cause of my distress was, the solution was clearly diet. I needed to trust my gut (literally).
Inspired by my successes, I went to the doctor again tonight, full of hope that we might explore some of the possibilities together. Instead, I felt like he scoffed at my thoughts, gave me a thumbs up on the diet, and sent me out the door with another prescription. He did agree to run some tests, and I'll get the results next week, but that wasn't really the point for me. I believe in trusting your own instincts about your body, and my body has been telling me that I need more than just a prescription; I need a lifestyle. I have a lot of respect for the amazing ways that doctors help people. But with a slightly cynical chip on my shoulder, I am resigned to the fact that Western medicine treats symptoms, not causes. And I am endeavoring to manage my own health from now on, with the idea of prevention at the forefront. Get ready for a long blog post...
The main change I made to my diet was to eliminate sugar. That doesn't just mean candy. It means cereal. It means peanut butter. It means bread crumbs. (Check your ingredient labels, folks.) And I feel GREAT (all caps intended). Though I haven't lost weight, my body feels like it lost a layer of something off the top of it. My mood is amazing. I feel really confident and happy every day, like I haven't since I was a kid! My skin has undergone a transformation. I feel like I look glow-ier. And it has only been a month.
So here's where I stand. I believe that healthiness is the number one key to happiness. And I believe that healthiness comes from much more than a multi-vitamin (though I subscribe to that camp too). I would like to share with you the lifestyle changes I have been adopting to promote my own wellness. I realize this is a lot of information, and that not everyone will agree with everything. So please, dear reader, do not think I will be offended if you click away now. But I feel so passionate about this, because I think there is a lot of information that we don't have easy access to, that can make our lives so much better. And I'd like to share the things I'm learning, and I hope to share much more of it in the future.
Here we go...
My Healthy Lifestyle Principles
1. Have an Active Daily Life. Being in the city makes this one easy. I walk at least two miles a day, at least five days a week. I don't have to work in the activity, because it's a part of my life. As convenience has made life easier for us, it has also made us less active.
2. Do Yoga. Yoga is good. And not just in a crunchy-granola way. I love exercise. And I can assure you, yoga is a workout. It makes you strong, flexible and relaxed. And the only thing you need is one of your greatest tools - your own body.
3. Lift Weights. Weight-lifting for women is very misunderstood. Far from creating ugly, bulky muscles, it actually creates strong, toned muscle and boosts your metabolism.
4. Dance a Little Zumba. Or find another fun exercise. This is the flavor of the month for me. Sometimes I feel ridiculous, but ultimately, I feel awesome.
Go All Natural
1. Buy Organic, Natural, Unprocessed Food. This is a hard one for me. Sadly, the cheapest food is the processed, subsidized stuff. But with a few key staples in the pantry and some smart shopping choices, this one gets a lot easier.
2. Use Natural Beauty/Home Products. A big thanks to T on this one. In fact, this got the entire ball of healthiness rolling. And this one is easy and cheap, thanks to an abundance of recipes for homemade beauty products. While I haven't noticed any miraculous changes in appearance, I feel much more in touch with my real attributes, including a tendency to have dry skin, which has been masked by my reactions to other products. Besides, if we can live without the chemicals, why not?
Find Your Diet
1. Don't Eat Sugar. There is one exception to this: natural sugar - the stuff you find in fruits and vegetables. Otherwise, I stay away from it.
2. Avoid Simple Carbs. These yummy foods affect your body much in the same way that sugar does.
3. Find Your Food Allergies. I picked a few things to explore, including peanuts. We don't usually see these food sensitivities, because we are always suffering from so many. By cycling suspect foods in and out of our diet, we can see which ones create symptoms (which can be very subtle). While I personally love my whole wheat pasta and tofu, gluten and soy are two of the biggest offenders in this category.
4. Drink Water. Enough said.
Get the Attitude
1. Make Time for Things You Love. Hobbies. Dates. Napping. I am a big offender here. I can get really wrapped up in my school/career. But at the end of the day, fulfillment comes from a lot of places. And making a fresh batch of sugar-free brownies is pretty fulfilling.
2. Believe that Everything is Fine. Whenever stress floats around the office, a co-worker of mine always says, "But everything is fine, right?" It is! We are lucky to be alive, have roofs over our heads and computers to blog on. We might have bad days, but that doesn't mean things aren't fine.
3. Live in the Present. This is another challenging one for me. I love scheduling out my days in detail far into the future and reminiscing about the past. And those things are totally acceptable...to a point. J and I really needed a walk a couple of weekends ago, and we ended up at the grocery store at 9:00 pm, with no one in sight and no money in our pockets. We walked up and down the aisles and enjoyed every minute of it. It was a great night, because we were present with each other.
4. There are No Wrong Choices. This is a philosophical decision for me. With a tendency towards anxiety and neurosis, I decided I needed to stop putting so much pressure on the decisions I make in life. Everything is a learning experience, and you can only do the best with what you have at any given time. I have no room for regrets. And with no wrong choices, the world gets a lot more exciting.
5. Be Grateful. It's easy to forget the wonderful things we have. Don't.
I'm still practicing doing everything I'm preaching. But that's part of the journey. I'm not putting any expectations on myself. I just wanted to ask you along for the ride.