SELF-CARE AS HEALTHCARE
When I started my lifestyle transformation a few years ago after facing some serious health issues, I didn’t really set out to relieve my dependency on medication. Weight loss, pain relief and body image were my primary goals. What I discovered along the way changed my entire perspective of healthcare and self-care. I now believe these two concepts go hand in hand.
Growing up in the Midwest, I lived a typical working class life. My father was a machinist and had been diagnosed with diabetes from the age of 14. My mother was ill equipped to be a parent as she was barely an adult when they married and she had her first of four children – me being the youngest. My mother’s way of dealing with the pressures of parenthood, anxiety, depression and insecurities was to eat. She would often buy sweets and cakes knowing that my father couldn’t partake in them. In her shame would often hide them in her dresser drawers or in cupboards she didn’t think anyone would look in.
My father’s idea of a healthy, well balanced meal was based around the current wisdom published by the government that stated three square meals a day consisting of protein, vegetables and starch washed down with a healthy glass of milk to make sure you got your daily dose of calcium intake. Fruits were usually canned because they kept longer. Neither of my parents were great cooks although my mother was fairly adept at baking cakes and cookies. We often subsisted on frozen TV dinners. For those of you old enough to know Swanson TV dinners and pot pies, I’m sure you can understand the attraction to these wonderful, ingenious, innovative and cost effective meals that could provide a balanced meal for low cost and minimal effort. For those of you who have no idea what TV dinners are, these were the precursors to the myriad of frozen convenience meals that proliferate the freezer section of every grocery store across America.
I won’t go into my thoughts about the health factor of these ‘Healthy’ convenience meals. I’ll save that for another post. My point in sharing this background is to give a reference of what my early experience was regarding food and nutrition. While my father was acutely aware of a ‘healthy diet’ and how that effected his diabetes, my mother used food to hide and assuage her emotional insecurities. I grew up with so many mixed messages about what was food and what was considered healthy. This drove me to explore food at an early age. I taught myself how to cook and bake. Yes, I’m quite good at both. Unusual, I know, but I think my strong survival instinct kicked in and motivated me to get creative. Somehow I instinctually knew that a sandwich made of bologna, American single slice cheese, mayonnaise and mustard between slices of white bread slathered with margarine was not the best choice for a ‘healthy’ lunch. Even if it did have a side of fruit cocktail (in its own juice).
As soon as I had my own money from babysitting or my paper route (remember when we actually got newspapers delivered to our homes?), I would go to the grocery store and search the aisles for inspiration for what I perceived to be healthy options. This usually consisted of fig newtons, Ryevita, swiss cheese (I actually had to slice it myself therefore it must be healthy), grapes, strawberries, meats to go with the cheeses, yogurt with real fruit, orange juice that didn’t come from a tube in the freezer. All decidedly healthier option then what my parents provided. Although I have to admit I would occasionally slip in a box of Hostess Ding Dongs. There was just something so satisfying about unwrapping that shiny foil, exposing the luxurious waxy chocolate covered cake filled with the fluffy, cream center. These I would hide in my bedroom – typically in one of my dresser drawers under my pajamas – much like my mother with her boxes of valentines chocolate heart boxes.
I became increasingly interested in baking and cooking and started buying my own cook books. I started off with the classics: Betty Crocker – I still have my original and my mother’s she received as a wedding gift. This was, of course, before you could Google any recipe on the planet. I now have an incredible library of cook books – most of which I don’t use because the recipes don’t match with my lifestyle of health and self-care. However, I have learned how to modify some of my favorites, like oyster stew and make them WildFit approved.
As my interest in food and healthy options grew, I moved on to alternative options – wheat free baking (before gluten free was a marketing plan), soy milk (ok, not the best alternative, but I had to start somewhere). Snacking consisted of celery, carrots, cucumbers, nuts and cheeses (oh cheese, this would prove to be one of the hardest food items for me to reconcile). And, of course, sugar. Sugar, the bedrock of all good baking recipes. I made headway in my diet and nutrition and was able to maintain a very health, lithe body for most of my life. I imagine my 6” 1’ height helped considerably.
Fast forward 30 years when I found myself nearing 50 and realizing that all the knowledge of what I thought was health was actually making me sick and I was heading down a path of poor, deteriorating health. Admittedly, later in life than my mother, but still on the same trajectory. I was a month away from turning 50 and grossly overweight. My wonderful husband’s support of telling me ‘I love you no matter what your weight’ somehow didn’t make me feel any better about myself. I thought I was eating healthily, but when I look back now I realize the stress and emotional eating was always there. While I was filling myself with mostly health foods, I was actually killing myself slowly with cortisol and negative self-talk.
It was my 5th year of being on thyroid medication with a gradually increasing dosage. My blood pressure – historically low – was now bordering on the high side. My doctor noted I was classified as pre-diabetic and asked if I wanted a metformin prescription as it might help with my weight. I declined and instead signed up for an Ayurvedic program in the hopes it would help kick-start my healing. I followed the Ayurvedic principles (mostly) for my dosha, but found the reliance on grain and dairy left me feeling bloated, heavy and lethargic. I believe there is much to be learned from the ancient teaching of Ayurveda, however from a nutritional perspective, I found the experience unfulfilling.
I decided I needed to go back to my approach I had adopted growing up. Explore, experiment and expand my knowledge and understanding of what is or isn’t healthy. I bought books on thyroid diets, increasing metabolism, detoxing, juicing, raw foods, blood types, vegan and meat. I tried fasting, feasting and foregoing. There were programs for meal replacement, smoothie diets, HCG shots and vitamin shots. Pretty much anything that promised quick changes and rapid weight loss. I was willing to use my body as an experimental lab.
What I failed to recognize at the time, was all of these approached relied on external changes based around will power. None of them addressed the root cause or taught me the WHY behind how they worked or didn’t work in my case. It was only after I discovered WildFit and examined my inner dialogue and emotional attachments that I was able to integrate healthy lifestyle choices that allowed me to release over 70 pounds and my attachment to what I thought was healthy.
Most of what I thought I knew about healthy food was based on misinformation and marketing. Even my doctor, who I consider fairly forward thinking, didn’t seem to understand the connection as deeply as I now do. Unfortunately, physicians who want to learn about health and nutrition must do that learning outside of medical school. Much of this ‘education’ is provided by pharmaceutical companies and food manufacturers so you can imagine there is no bias in that training.
The benefits I experienced from WildFit can be measured by my weight loss, however the greater benefits come from my increased energy, mental clarity, easing of menopausal symptoms, pain relief and renewed enthusiasm for life. And most importantly I no longer rely on thyroid medication to balance my energy levels. I’m no longer pre-diabetic and my blood pressure has returned to my normal low range. My metabolism has increased exponentially and my connection to my body is so strong now, I know immediately when I’ve had some food that wasn’t a good choice for caring for myself.
I still occasionally battle with my inner dialogue about giving myself a ‘treat’ or partaking in a celebratory cake because ‘everyone else is having some’. When these times come up, I remind myself of where I’ve come from, how I feel now and how I’ll feel after I have that treat. I ask myself if by having the ________ (insert anything you consider a treat) will that be honoring who I am now or placating who I was? Sometimes I still choose to mis-treat myself and I’m OK with that too, because the result reinforces my resolve as I listen to my body’s complaints through bloating, cramps, indigestion, inflammation, etc.
I have lived a WildFit lifestyle for almost two years and I’ve been off my thyroid medication for nearly six months. My doctor is following my progress closely and we have an agreement to check my blood work every three months. She is very impressed with my transformation and while she always believed thyroid disease could be reversed, I’m her first patient who actually achieved it.
Maintaining the progress means I have to pay close attention to my daily nutritional intake. The best way I’ve found to manage my stress levels and stay focused on health is to start my day in a mindful way. I wake at 4 am every day (including Saturday and Sunday – much to my husband’s dismay). I recognize this isn’t for everyone and my intent in sharing this information with you is simply to give you an idea of some things you might be able to incorporate into you daily progress strategy.
- 4am wake, turn on sauna
- 4:15 10 minutes on the vibration plate (this gets the lymph system moving)
- 4:25 20 minutes stretching and/or yoga
- 4:45 Dry body brush
- 4:50 Vitamins and Alkagizer
- 4:55 Infrared sauna
- Journaling (morning pages)
- 6:00 Feed dogs
- 6:15 shower
- 7:00 sit down at my desk ready for the day
Incorporating meditation and nutrition as the cornerstones of my healthy lifestyle has given me the tools to transform my body, my mind and my soul. Turning healthcare into self-care will enable me to live a long, healthy energetic life and share my experiences and knowledge with others.