Today I want to get a little more persona and share why I decided to make my health a priority. It’s not always easy for me to open up about deeply personal issues, especially when I feel like it highlights a weakness or a failure, but I feel it’s time to share some of what’s been going on in my life. For me, part of the Wonder Woman complex, trying to be all things to all people, has resulted in me not taking care of myself the way that I should. For probably the last 27 years, I’ve been last on the priority list. The kids, Mike, my job, the list of things that I prioritized before myself was endless. Putting myself last for so many years resulted in me being completely wore out and \never feeling good. Exhaustion, migraines, heartburn and generally feel ill followed me from day to day. Every. Single. Day.
The picture above is one from our last vacation and when I look at it I see someone who is completely wore out. I wasn’t feeling well, I was exhausted and quite frankly, a shell of the person I want to be. When I look at it, I see a person who needed to make some serious changes in her life to start living the life she wants. The picture actually makes me a little sad when I look at it because it reminds me of how awful I felt.
Maybe by sharing my story, what’s been going on and what I’ve been doing it will help someone who is feeling the same way.
2016 – a life changing year for me
Last year was a pretty tough year for my family. In April 2016 my mom had a surgery that went horribly wrong. From almost the beginning, her recovery went very poorly. She was unable to keep food or liquid down, she was exhausted and felt terrible all the time. The surgeon who did the surgery at one point suggested it was in her head and maybe she needed to be committed to a psychiatric hospital. He unknowingly released the Kraken (that would be me) with that statement. Knowing my mother, we knew it wasn’t in her head and to hear a doctor say that, angered me immensely. We were determined to get to the bottom of the issue and get it resolved. Over the course of 5 months, many hospital stays, weight loss of over 100 lbs and generally getting to the point where we didn’t think she would survive, she was diagnosed with a surgical complication that her original surgeon assured me wasn’t the case when I asked him at the very beginning of the ordeal if that could be the problem.
The only way to fix the issue was to perform another major surgery but she was to weak for them to do so. To get her well enough for the surgery, she needed to go into a nursing home where she could receive nutrition through her PICC line (she was unable to keep food or liquids down). The type of nutrition she was receiving had a lot of risks so the next four months were filled with a lot of drama. Two staph infections, an Ecoli infection that sent her into septic shock and a blood clot. Needless to say, 2016 was an incredibly stressful and scary year for my family.
The good news is that there is a happy ending. Between Christmas and New Year my mom was well enough to have the corrective surgery and she’s made (almost) a full recovery. Six months later she’s doing fabulous, my dad was finally able to retire (he was going to retire last year but couldn’t because they didn’t want to change insurance during my mom’s illness) and they’re planning a trip to Alaska next year to celebrate their 50th anniversary.
Watching my mom go through this struggle and seeing the affect that lack of nutrition had on her made me realize that I needed to make myself a top priority. By not making myself a priority all these years, I found that it was even harder to step in and be the support I needed to be when a family member was going through a crisis. To live the life I wanted and to be strong for those who need me, I knew that I needed to make some significant changes in my life and make my health a priority
Taking those initial steps to make my health a priority
At the end of 2016,I declared that 2017 was going to be “The Year of Me”. Come hell or high water, I was going to make the changes I needed to feel good, increase my energy and be at the top of my game. The problem is, when you are at the bottom of the well, sometimes it’s tough to even know where to begin. Fortunately, over the Christmas holidays I developed a horrible ear infection. Hearing loss, burst ear drum, excruciating pain, all the good stuff that comes with an ear infection! It was fortunate though because for the first time ever I went to the health care clinic my employer runs on site. That visit was the start of my journey.
While getting checked out, the doctor and I started talking about how miserable I was and I mentioned my chronic migraines and perpetual malaise. Let me tell you a bit about the doctor at our workplace clinic. She is a holistic practitioner. She’ll prescribe medication when required but she wants to get ahead of the disease and stop what’s happening so that medication isn’t required. I was exactly the kind of patient she loves to get her hands on!
The doctor told me about a class she was running starting in February and encouraged me to sign up for. It was basically a nutrition class that helped you start on a more healthy path. At the beginning of the class they took some bloodwork to establish a baseline (your basic metabolic panel with a few extras thrown in) and after the 12 week class they re-took your bloodwork and gave you a comparison as to how you improved.
In the past, I’ve rolled my eyes at this class. After all, we all know what we should be doing, actually doing it is the hard part. This time, even though I was a bit skeptical I decided to do it. After all, if I was going to make significant changes in my health I needed to change the path I’ve been taking.
Identifying the plan
For the first time ever, I had a doctor who looked me in the face and said “it’s not acceptable for you to feel this way, we WILL make you better.” Wow! I finally had someone who was going to help me solve the issue, not just tell me I have no medical problems and to send me on my way.
With the doctors help, I sat down and drew up a blueprint for how I was going to start my journey to feeling well. To be honest, it was a bit overwhelming. After feeling so terrible for such a long time, knowing even where to begin seemed daunting. By identifying a path forward I was a least beginning to take the steps.
- Test for sleep apnea; find ways to improve my sleep
- Meet with my ob/gyn to talk about some “female issues” I had been having for years
- Reduce the frequency and severity of my chronic migraines
- Do a metabolic screening including a vitamin D and C-reative protein test to identify any potential medical causes
- Take the lifestyle/nutrition class to identify lifestyle/eating habit changes I needed to make
- Find a fitness program that would work for my lifestyle and be sustainable
- Meet regularly with a health coach who could help me on my journey
What this journey was not about
There is so much chatter in the world about weight. As women, our bodies are under enormous scrutiny and to be honest, a lot of it is from other women. Woman are to fat, to skinny, not muscular enough. Our thighs are to thick or to thin. I obviously need to lose some weight but from the beginning I have been very clear about one this. I was NOT going to diet. I was NOT going to weigh myself regularly and I was NOT going to become a slave to the scale.
I have a pretty good level of self confidence and if people don’t like the way I look, that’s really their problem, not mine. As a wife, mother, daughter and friend, I bring a lot to the table and my weight is only one aspect of me. For anyone who would look at me and dismiss me because of how much I weigh, I feel sorry for them as they are missing out on getting to know a kick-a$$ person!
This journey has been, and will continue to be, all about feeling good. Being whole in body, mind and spirit. Being strong and pain free. Being able to kayak, hike, climb a pyramid, walk the streets of Rome, climb to the top of Diamond Head or play tennis with friends. A skinny body doesn’t always indicate health just as a fat body doesn’t always indicate unhealthy. We all have different body types and sized, weighing 120 lbs and being a size 6 wasn’ t, isn’t and never will be my goal. This journey is for me to make my health a priority.
The initial results
It’s been six months since I’ve declared 2017 the “Year of Me” and started my journey to make my health a priority. Has it been worth it? Absolutely! Am I done? Definitely not! Through my steps I’ve made major changes in my life and feel significantly better. I still have quite a ways to go but I’m in such a better place now than I was at the end of last year.
Here are some of the changes I’ve made.
- Identifying ways to improve my sleeping so that I’m getting a solid six hours a night on average. No, it’s still not enough but it’s a HUGE improvement over what I was getting
- Cut out caffeine from my diet (except for the occasional, or not so occasional, piece of chocolate!)
- Cut out all sugared beverages from my diet
- Significantly increased my water consumption (I drink approximately 100 oz of water a day)
- Broke my McDonald’s habit (it’s been four months since I’ve had McDonald’s!)
- Added more fruits and vegetables to my diet
- Started taking a multi-vitamin and a Vitamin D supplement (my Vitamin D levels were incredibly low)
- I opted to have a hysterectomy after 4 – 5 years of putting it off and trying to deal with the issues I was experiencing
- Started working with a personal training in a small group setting to get into a routine
- Removed toxicity from my life
I haven’t made all these changes at once and some are still a work in progress. There are additional changes I need to make but I’m going to make them slowly. All these changes need to be permanent lifestyle changes that are sustainable. That’s one reason why you don’t see “started a diet” on the list. I start the changes when I know I’m emotionally ready to make them lifelong instead of a quick fix.
Over the next few months (hopefully one topic each week) I’ll be sharing with you in-depth what I’ve done to achieve my objective and make my health a priority. Maybe some of the things I’ve done will help you as well!