A little over a year ago (Dec '09), I sat in my doctor's office and cried. I was overwhelmed with how poorly I felt. I was not getting enough sleep. My skin and hair were dry and unmanageable. I was extremely overweight. I had no desire to exercise. I was irritable, sad, and weepy.
I was a mess.
Fast forward to two weeks ago (Dec. '10). I was in the doctor's office again, waiting to see her. She peeked her head in the door and mentioned that she needed to check with the nurse who measured my weight/vitals, as she thought there was a number recorded wrong. I asked her about that and she said that the chart showed I had lost a significant amount of weight. Then I stood up, twirled around and said, "Does it look like I've lost a significant amount of weight?" Sixty pounds are gone! No more cholesterol medications (since Mar.'10)! Sleeping so much better! I'm exercising on a regular basis and eating a primary plant-based diet. My doctor was beyond pleased with my hard work over this past year.
There's something to be said about making your health a priority. I've learned so much over the last twelve months on how my body works, what is best for me in terms of food and fitness, sleep and managing stress. I've read many books on nutrition and health. I'm learning the best way to manage the diseases I have (past and present) so that I can live a low-maintenance life.
Here are a few things I've discovered the past year that have been helpful to me:
- I am what I eat. If I eat highly processed, sugary, saturated fatty foods - then I'm going to feel listless, fat, angry, sad, slow, and tired.
- Reading books on health, nutrition, and fitness have provided me with the right tools to make the best decisions for improving my health. Books such as: The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Foods to Fight Cancerby Richard Beliveau, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, The Cancer Survivor's Guide by Neal Barnard, Clean Food and Clean Start by Terry Walters. I've read many others, but these have had a definite impact on many of the changes I've made over the past year.
- Strive to get a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night. I'm not going to lie - I struggle with this one on a regular basis. My job is such that I must commute over 45 minutes each way and I work a minimum of nine hours each day. This makes for a crazy long day! And it doesn't leave me much time during the week to do the things I need and want to do. So often I sacrifice sleep. Not good. I notice how much better I feel overall when I sleep those full seven hours (or more - usually on weekends!). This translates into more energy, more alert thinking, less irritability, less baggy-looking eyes, and remembering to think before I speak ;) The body does a lot of recovering/healing while you sleep, so it's important to make this healthy habit a priority.
- Exercise gets easier the more I do it. Until I had lost the first 30lbs, I was not able to move very well, so I didn't exercise much. Then after I had lost some weight I started slow, using Leslie Sansone's walk at home DVD programs. These are great for beginners, but I still use them on a semi-regular basis to supplement my fitness workouts. Thirty minutes in the morning is a great way to start my day. Then, if for some reason I can't make it to the gym or get outdoors to walk, I know I've done something healthy for my body in the way of exercise that day. Our Church has a fitness center with an indoor track, fully-equipped weight room/cardio equipment, assorted fitness classes, and a personal trainer available. Taking advantage of these opportunities this past year has helped me so much in my journey towards wellness. I'm already setting goals for the new year in this area (I'll share those in another post).
- Thinking outside the box when it comes to food. I'm learning to combine foods that I would never have put together in the past. For example: roasted vegetables (like squash or brussel sprouts) over leafy greens, different whole grains added in unusual places (wheatberries or quinoa on salads, stirred into oatmeal or as a yogurt topping), green smoothies (raw spinach teamed with banana and other fruits make an amazing smoothie!), a veggie omelette with goat cheese, or even raw cheddar slice on whole grain seed bread with pumpkin butter. Some of these combinations may sound crazy to you, but I've been using a little bit of creativity to make sure I get my daily allowances in and the tastes that I'm experiencing are really fabulous. I try to make my meals as colorful as I can by incorporating different fruits and vegetables. Yellow peppers, green zucchini, red onion, orange carrots, brown crimini mushrooms, and purple cabbage all add great nutrients and wonderful color to a veggie saute mixed with red quinoa and brown rice. Who says cooking vegetarian can't be adventurous?
- Not focusing so much on my weight (as an end goal), but pursuing wellness and good health. Losing weight (and it continues) has been a great benefit to the changes I've made over the past year, but it hasn't been my only goal. Sixty pounds is nothing to sneeze at, but I think I'm even more encouraged by the other things I see happening in my body that are benefiting me in the long run. Surviving cancer twice in my life, and dealing with an incurable kidney disease, along with hypothyroidism, has made me focus on my overall health and not just losing weight for the sake of being a certain size or seeing a certain number on the scale. I have more at stake in my wellness journey than just fitting into a certain size pair of jeans. For that reason, I only weighed myself every two weeks throughout this past year and every weigh-in day I either lost weight or stayed steady. I can honestly say that I have not gained any of the weight back that I've lost so far. In the past when I participated in other weight-loss programs (Weight Watchers, etc.) I would see-saw back and forth in my weight loss until I made my "goal" weight. Personally I think it was because I didn't really understand my body or nutrition and how it impacted my body, so losing weight became more of a game. I went clothes shopping today (desperately needed!) and found that I have dropped four clothing sizes in the past year! I still have weight to lose to get to a normal weight and BMI for my age and height. I don't stress about it - I know it will happen as I continue this journey that I'm on. (Fun fact: this past Christmas season is the first one that I can remember that I didn't gain any weight nor over-indulge in eating as I have in the past. That is an accomplishment in itself, as I realize that so many of the things I've learned this past year have helped me make the best decisions for ME!).
This post is getting extremely long, so I should close, but I want to leave you with a couple photos. The first was taken back in Oct. '09 at my 30th high school reunion. I like to think of it as my "before" photo. The second photo was taken a few days ago by my husband (sorry for the blurriness). This photo is my transition photo, as I still have a continuation of this journey to wellness that I'm pursuing.
Excited to see where 2011 leads me on my path to wellness!