It’s still mind-boggling to me to contemplate how my overall health and wellbeing has changed in the past five years. It’s been such a gradual improvement that I often forget how far I’ve come.
At one point, I was having unexplained and incredibly debilitating stomach aches a few times a week, I was experiencing IBS symptoms regularly (which I had experienced almost my entire life) and a few times a week I’d wake up in the night with extreme reflux. I was on Nexium for my GERD and gastritis, I had a script for Ativan that I kept on hand for occasional anxiety symptoms, and I was on Synthroid for my hypo-thyroid. And I was still out of commission a couple days a month due to extreme gastrointestinal issues, the details of which I will kindly omit, you are very welcome.
For my regular readers, you may be yawning… I know you’ve heard this before. But if you’re new here and you’re struggling with health issues, please know that there can be a light at the end of the tunnel.
I’ve also struggled with mild depression symptoms throughout my life, and a few years ago that was rearing its ugly head. I actually saw a doctor and got a script for medication, and that’s when I decided something had to change. Here’s what I did and how I’m staying healthy and active to this day.
How I Stay Healthy and Active
1. I slowly shifted our family to eating more real foods, and the processed foods that I do buy are often organic and/or have a short ingredient list. It was hard at first, but now that it’s become habit I don’t think twice about it. I could certainly do better, but I feel like we have found a good place for our family. Everyone has to find that place for herself.
2. I adopted a gluten-free lifestyle. I was already pretty deeply entrenched in the whole foods when I made that one last little tweak to my diet, and it has made all the difference. I was still having occasional gastritis and IBS symptoms, enough that I felt like something needed to be done. Since removing gluten from my diet three years ago, with a few very rare exceptions, I now live completely IBS-free, which is crazy when I think about how bad I had it during college and my early adult years. I am also off of Nexium and rarely have GERD symptoms. When they do flare up, I treat them with Apple Cider Vinegar. It’s gross, but it gets the job done.
3. I take a few basic supplements. I’m actually horrible about remembering to take pills of any kind (which is how I weaned myself off Synthroid and Ativan; I just kept forgetting to fill the script, lol!) If I remember, I try to take Cod Liver Oil and Vitamin D3 every day. I also have a Magnesium/Calcium pill as well as Gentle Iron and zinc. I think everyone should take Cod Liver Oil, and during the winter months, Vitamin D3. My kids help me remember and we often take them with our dinner.
4. I started exercising. I think living gluten-free helped my digestive and depressive symptoms, and I know that eating more real food played a large part in my recovery, but I’m pretty confident that it is the exercise to which I can attribute my most dramatic results. Yes, it’s hard to fit in, but it is soooo worth it. I started running a few years ago, and after a long recovery from plantar fasciitis, I’m slowly getting back into it. I also work out once a week with a personal trainer. Strength training is crucial to maintaining strong bones into our old age so that is how I justify it. I know that a lot of people do well taking classes at the gym or working out on their own, but I need the accountability of having someone there waiting for me, and I also need someone to push me because I’m a bit of a wimp. I do try to take a strength training class at the gym or a strength-based yoga class once a week in addition to the personal training session, but at least I know I’m getting one in this way. For a while I was taking a TRX class, which was challenging but super fun.
Ever since I added exercise to my life, I have barely struggled with depression at all. Sure, I may get into a bit of a funk from time to time (usually when I’m in dire need of Vitamin D!) and I definitely fly off the handle and lose my temper with my kids and husband more than I’d like, but the long-lasting periods of lethargy and apathy are all but gone. I’ve also managed to get myself off of Nexium and Synthroid, and I finally let my Ativan script run out.
5. I am incredibly stubborn about getting my sleep. Without adequate sleep, I am a beast, plain and simple. So I make sure to get between 8 and 10 hours a night. I really wish I was one of those people who can run on 4 to 6. Only imagine what I could accomplish with 4 extra hours in my day!! But I am wired to need my sleep and I’ve learned not to fight it.
Everyone has a different experience and what works for one may not work for another, but this is how I manage to keep myself healthy and active. I want to be one of those moms who can always hop on a bike with the family or go for a hike and keep up with them without getting winded. I want my kids to see me making myself a priority so when they grow up, they hopefully choose to make healthy lifestyle choices for themselves and their families. I can tell that even now, they notice. They’re proud of me when I come back from a run, and they appreciate my homemade meals. Not to say that they don’t ask for the crappy stuff, and sometimes I even say yes, but I think it’s really important for everyone to make an attempt to find the balance that works for them.