I hope this doesn't end up being a boring post for some of my readers, but I really feel like I need to recap the last three months of how my life has changed after deciding at the new year to be more intentional about my health - all aspects of it.
At the end of 2009 I was very frustrated with how I was feeling - both physically and mentally. I knew I needed to make some intentional changes in several areas of my life if I wanted to see things turn around. It wasn't necessarily a "new year's resolution" per se, but I did decide to put some better habits in place to see if I could see some real benefits to a healthier ME. You may have noticed that my blog writing has changed to incorporate more of what I'm learning about myself and these changes I'm making over the past three months.
If you've been reading my blog for very long, you know that I'm a 48-year old woman who has already dealt with two cancer challenges, a messed up thyroid, and a hereditary kidney disease. I have weight issues. I could just blame those issues on my thyroid and move on, but I realized that it's more than just an under-active thyroid that's causing my weight problems. I needed to do something about the way I was eating. I needed to be more active on a daily basis. I needed to get more sleep. I needed to educate myself on how to achieve better health and wellness.
I needed to be INTENTIONAL.
So, for the past three months here are some things I've learned - about myself and about health in general. If it was only about losing weight, I could "easily" have adopted another method to make it happen quickly. I see so many "gimmicks" out on the market - weight loss shakes, pills, specialty diets that leave out many important nutrients. Most of the times those methods work great at the onset, but are not proven to be longterm weight loss successes. Our bodies were made to eat whole, natural foods - not processed food substitutes. It bugs me that a company like Weight Watchers (I've lost weight on their program before) encourages the consumption of many processed foods (like 100 calorie cookies, low-fat cheese, and diet bread - because if the bread is low-cal, you can eat 2 slices instead of one regular slice). That's more food for the same amount of calories! Never mind that those breads, etc. are loaded with preservatives and additives, artificial ingredients, etc - all for feeding the mindset that more for less is better. The last time I went to a WW meeting (a few years ago) I felt very frustrated that there was too much emphasis on eating prepared frozen meals, sugar-free ice cream, low-cal bread, and diet sodas and not enough focus on eating fresh (and often raw!) vegetables and fruits. WW isn't the only company that does this - I'm just picking on them because I've had first hand experience. Just pick up one of their magazines, browse through it, and see how many ads there are that include a frozen or processed meal/food full of additives that are not natural. Very frustrating. And we eat it and consider it "good for us" because it helps us lose weight. But it's not REAL FOOD!
I've been more INTENTIONAL about eating in general - paying close attention to the nutrients that I consume on a daily basis. I have not turned into a vegetarian, but I have decided to only have meat once or twice a week (on purpose) and build the majority of my meals around vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. I try to have a mini goal each day to incorporate 7-9 fruits and vegetables into my meals. If I'm concentrating on those - the really healthy foods - I have less worries about eating too many other foods that may not benefit my health in the long run. And don't worry, I'm getting plenty of good protein!
Also, portion sizes have caught my attention these days. I notice when I go out to a restaurant that the portions that are served to me are nearly three times what I would eat at any given meal at home (that I prepare myself). That is wild! And something that I didn't pay much attention to before. In the past, if I ordered a salad I would eat the entire meal thinking "hey, it's a salad and it's good for me so I should eat it all right here and now". Now, it makes more sense to me to only eat a third of my meal and take the rest home for two more meals. I have rarely gotten up from the table in the past three months with that "stuffed" feeling from overeating. I'm intentional about watching my portion sizes and it's really helping me.
I vowed to not make these changes just because of weight loss, though that has been a wonderful benefit along this journey. I have lost 29 lbs to date - I've done it slow and in a healthy way. I'm not depriving myself and I love all the food choices that I have now. It's fun to plan my meals around the many vegetables and fruits available. I enjoy seeing how many different colors I can incorporate into my daily diet - leafy greens, orange bell pepper, red apple, purple grapes, yellow onions, brown mushrooms.
Another reason I'm excited about the changes I making is because I recently was able to discontinue my cholesterol medicine - my doctor said I didn't need it any more. That's been a huge blessing for me. I know I'm moving in the right direction.
Exercise is becoming more important to me. I read a few healthy blogs on the internet and the majority of them are written by twenty-something women who are food bloggers and also into running and yoga. I would love to hear from more middle age women who are taking control of their health and being intentional in their pursuit of wellness. I don't run. I walk. And I usually walk on the treadmill, outside in the fresh air, or with a Leslie Sansone DVD in my living room. I strength train with weights. I take it slow and work on my technique and endurance. I'm seeing results, but it's slow coming. I'm older now and I see things happening with my body, the changes, coming at a slower pace. But it's still happening. Because I'm being INTENTIONAL.
Recently, I started being more purposeful about getting more sleep. I blogged about it last week. I've read that sleeping less than 7 hours each night (regularly) can lead to weight gain and heart problems, among other issues. That alone is incentive for me to get more sleep each night. But I'm convinced that I feel more alert and able to make good decisions, function better under pressure, and am easier to get along with when I can get 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night.
I've started a health journal and besides writing down what I eat each day, I also record how many hours I sleep, the type and duration of exercise I get each day, and my blood pressure reading (this is important for my kidney disease to insure that my creatine levels stay low - I need to keep my BP at 130/85 or less).
It may seem like I'm being somewhat obsessive about my health because that's been my blogging focus these past few months, but I like to think of it as being INTENTIONAL - actively pursuing good health on purpose. Making good decisions about what I eat, getting enough exercise and sleep each day, and continuing to study up on good nutritional habits that will continue for the rest of my life. I feel like I'm getting my life back.
I apologize for the long, wordy post with no photos - but, I felt like I needed to explain where my head and heart have been since the beginning of this year. I'm still trusting God to help me make good decisions about my physical health just as He helps me with my spiritual health. I couldn't do this without His help and I know that even though this body I live in is only temporary, I must take good care of it while I have it.
I must be INTENTIONAL.