Slow and Steady

After doing more research about nutritional deficits in those of us with inflammatory conditions I am more convinced than ever that even though I am trying to improve my diet by eating lest processed food and increasing my veggies and fruits I’m not hitting my nutritional mark. According to some internet research I’ve been doing it is quite possible that I may need more than the average “healthy” person for my body to function at its optimum.  I have gone from counting calories, trying the primal diet, clean eating, ect all in an effort to get back to a healthy weight.  Right now I am about 25 lbs down from my heaviest and I still have at least 20 to go.  I’m sure I can go on some quick fix diet and lose the excess weight by summer only to find myself in a constant yo-yo state trying to maintain my target weight.  So I am about to Frankenstein a diet that I think will work for me.  I plan to go back to a vegetable based diet.  I will keep my carb count at 150 or less every day, and I will allow myself 1 fun size piece of candy a day to keep me from feeling too deprived.  I will continue to eat poultry and fish but stay away from red meat.  I have vegetarian leanings and I am hoping to one day completely phase meat out of my diet. Right now I’m afraid to do so because I hardly ever hit my recommended daily allowance of iron without giving up meat.  Until I find and incorporate enough iron rich veggies in my diet to meat at least half my recommended daily allowance I will be keeping some meat in my diet.  In addition to really concentrating on keeping my diet clean and vegetable based I will work out at least 3-4 times a week.

Health is a journey and unfortunately there is no quick fix.  I am going to have to understand there will be no 4 lbs lost in a week.  It will be slow and steady for me but I believe eating healthy and exercising will get me where I need to be.  I believe that the long term commitment needed to lose weight in this manner will become a habit and a way of life.  I want a healthy lifestyle more than to look good in a bathing suit this summer.  And who knows, I may even make it to my bikini body by late summer anyway.

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Determination

Its been raining for the last few days. The ground is soggy and my usual walking route is filled with puddlesand mud.  And of course, my joints want to make some noise also. But I know that for me sitting out a week from exercise can derail my commitment to getting out and moving my body at least three days a week. So I laced up my purple sneakers and joined the ranks of the retired fitness seeker in my town. I lapped the mall!  I walked 3 miles past the food court, department stores, and the new sports shop. No it wasn’t the same as my usual trek.  I didn’t time myself and I didn’t work up a sweat.  But what I did do was honor my commitment to exercise. Hopefully the rain and my hips will ease up this weekend and l can return to my regular route.

Vanity

Weight loss and lifestyle change can be an explosive issue.  All you have to do is tell a group a people your weight loss and diet modification goals and you will see what I mean.  It seems that individuals can feel extremely threatened by choices you make about how you want to take care of your body.  They will tell you that your goals are driven by vanity.  They will remind you that you are not as young as you used to be and that you cannot regain the tight and fit body you had in your teens and twenties.  Why would you even consider aiming for a weight and BMI at the lower end of your recommended range? After all, a “woman’s” body has extra weight on it.  Being that thin wouldn’t look right.  Because filling out a pair of jeans in all the right places should be our number one concern-not that our bodies are being nourished correctly. Some will go so far to tell you that you will be hurting your health-how dare you commit to a plant based diet.  Man cannot live without routinely consuming fast food you know.

The idea that a journey to health is much t deeper than its visual outcome is hard for some comprehend.  Sure I hope to be on the slim side.  My joints can only profit from having less stress on them.  Both my rheumatologist and I agree that losing weight would be a drug free step I could take that would help me manage my disease.  My diet must have an abundance of fruits and veggies because I poison my body twice a week with a chemotherapy drug.  If you are going to inject poison it only stands to reason you should try the best you can to counter that with nutrients that will maximize the body’s ability to function well.  And that may mean that french fries become a monthly indulgence rather than weekly-and I’m ok with that.

Sure, I hope to see visual rewards of my journey to health.  I expect clearer skin, a smaller waist, and the possibility of fearless jean shopping.  But my true goal is health.  I want to give my body what it needs to work at its optimum level-whatever it may be. And that is not vanity.

Wishes

I wish that the power of knowledge also lead to a change of heart and habit. I wish that knowing what I need to do to be healthy was enough to change my unhealthy habits for good and stop me from falling back into old eating habits and coping skills when life gets shaky. I wish that researching and understanding rheumatoid arthritis somehow lessened the pain and discomfort. I wish that knowing how the meds work somehow increased their ability to control the disease and the pain associated with it. I wish that I would remember that low days don’t have to overshadow the good days. I wish that I was stronger than I actually am.

But I know that tomorrow is another day. And I believe that some wishes do come true! This too will pass!

Sleep

English: A body pillow.

English: A body pillow. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing that can really derail your journey to health is a lack of sleep. Adequate rest not only affects your attitude and cognitive abilities, but it can also make it harder to maintain a healthy weight.  Studies have shown that those with chronic insomnia have higher rates of diabetes and have a harder time maintaining a normal body weight.  Sleepless nights also impact our immune system and our body’s ability to heal itself.  Lack of sleep can be a serious roadblock for anyone on a journey to health.

Unfortunately I possess 3 out of 4 risk factors for chronic insomnia.  Shift work? Check.  Being a woman? Check.  Chronic pain? Check. The only risk factor I don’t have is a medical diagnosis such as sleep apnea that would interfere with my sleep pattern.

One of the worst parts of insomnia is the long night that stretches endlessly while my exhausted body and active mind are at war with each other. On the one hand my body is demanding sleep –on the other hand my mind is too active and alert to allow the body’s wish to be fulfilled.  That is why the book Restful Insomnia by Sondra Kornblatt caught my attention.

While this book goes over the basic insomniac rules-sleep schedule even on the weekends, turning off your tv and cellphone, ect the author believes that those with insomnia can achieve a restful state even if they do not actually get more than a few hours of sleep.  The author says that the focus of bedtime should be comfort and relaxation.  She believes that whether we sleep or not a restful state can be achieved.  She goes one step further in asserting that once we get used to achieving a wakeful rest at night we will find that we have fewer and fewer bouts of insomnia.  A relaxed mind and body should ultimately lead to the sleep an insomniac so desperately craves.

While the book doesn’t pretend that there is an easy cure for insomnia it does offer hope.  Even without sleep you can face the morning less exhausted than normal.  I will be some of her techniques a shot for the next month.  As she suggests I will be making sure that I prepared for a night of sleeplessness by having “nest” of comforts that will aid in my relaxation.  I will use deep breathing and body awareness to turn off my mind in hopes of resting.  According to Korblatt one you are able to achieve wakeful rest sleep is not far behind. And sleep is my ultimate goal.  I don’t mind putting in the work if this method increases the number of nights that I wake up in the morning feeling rested. If anyone is interested in my progress I will be glad to write a follow-up post with how well this experiment worked.

I know that one of the biggest roadblocks on my journey to health is lack of sleep.  Whether it is the fact that I work 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shifts on the routine basis, or the fact that rolling over on a tender joint wakes me in the early morning hours and prevents me from going back into a deep sleep, I am routinely sleep deprived.  And like any other step on my journey to health conquering insomnia requires a lifestyle change, bumps in the road, and ultimately victory!

Better

It often seems as if we do not give the credit due to the phrase “I’m doing better.”  Doing better is seen an admission that things have not been going as well as hoped and that the situation has not been resolved satisfactory.  This statement in the same breath gives hope and admits defeat.  Doing better is a two word phase full of hope and fear, potential and acceptance, and joy and pain.  Doing better can reflect a journey through a land of uncertainty in which the journeyer is cautiously hopeful about arriving at their destination. But doing better seems to always come with a question mark.  Will better last and is better going to be enough?  Will better ever turn into good?

But “doing better” is so much more.  While doing good/well is the ultimate goal there are innumerable and infinite amounts of baby steps between doing poorly and doing well.   Doing better denotes some battles have been won. We have gained some ground against our enemy.  Doing better opens us up to the possibility of defeating whatever we are struggling against.  After all if we have won some battles, who is to say that more victories are not in our future?  Doing better should be filled with more hope than dread.  Doing better should be inspirational rather than defeating.  Doing better is destination on the road to good.  You can’t get to “good” unless you first pass through better.

That is where I am right now.  I am doing better.  I am eating better, I have a new medication plan to deal with my RA, and I am incorporating exercise back into my daily schedule.  Am I where I want to be?  No.  But I am getting closer. I’m certainly doing better!