Maintaining A Healthy Lifestyle Can Be Difficult

Maintaining A Healthy Lifestyle Can Be Difficult

I’ve talked a lot over the past few years about trying to lead a healthy lifestyle. It became important to me when I noticed a persistent numbness in the last two fingers of my left hand. As time went on, the numbness grew worse. Eventually, it spread to my right hand, which led me to a diagnosis of cubital tunnel syndrome – a condition caused by a nerve pinch in the arm. (It’s similar to carpal tunnel, which affects the first three fingers of the hand instead.)

Since then, I’ve made a concerted effort to use a more ergonomic workspace, work shorter hours, eat healthier and exercise more often. Any change to diet or routine is hard and slow. But I’m proud of the way my changes made me feel. I had more energy and more time to spend with friends and loved ones. I made a point to keep living healthy lifestyle as one of my major goals for the foreseeable future.

Which is the biggest reason I’m annoyed it took me 4 months to realize I was making myself sick again.

It’s easy for health to fall by the wayside

As I write this, summer looms around the corner. Life is in full swing. My husband is about to start his final round of report cards for the year. This time is always accompanied by a flurry of final school activities and, of course, graduation, where he sends this year’s high school seniors on their way.

My life is busy too. I’m wrapping up a late draft edit for Symphony of the Stars. I’m adjusting Eternity’s Empire to better match the genre it shifted into (sci-fi, rather than fantasy). And I’m gearing up to start my first new major novel project in about ten years (Once Upon a Dream, the first trilogy of Domerin’s story).

Likewise, my editing has really taken off this year. I’ve had pretty steady work and expect my current bookings to carry me to September. Plus the hubs and I are still looking for a house – though we may finally be honing in on that front.

Focus on health is still written in big, bold letters in my personal goal chart for the year. And though I have indulged a bit when it comes to clean eating (I may have had a few extra donuts and a bag of chips along the way), I still carve out time for yoga at least 5 times a week and taking the occasional walk with the hubs now that the weather is warm again.

But as the months have dragged on, I’ve felt less healthy – a clear indication I did something wrong somewhere along the line.

I didn’t neglect my health on purpose

We’re astoundingly good at ignoring our health. I still remember growing up in the US. My mom had healthcare for us kids. Our father’s insurance covered us until we aged out. But she didn’t have health coverage for herself. These were well before the days of Obamacare, and the companies she worked for simply didn’t offer health insurance that was within her price range. (Money was constantly tight.) She didn’t go to the doctor unless she absolutely had to, and it probably caused her a lot of problems later in life.

Even living in Canada, where we have public healthcare, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of justification. I blamed my aches on the weather. First on snow and low temperatures. Later on rain. I thought I hurt my back during yoga. Or lost track of good posture when I changed my workspace.

It wasn’t until we had a string of warm, sunny days where my back hurt worse than ever that I was forced to admit that something was wrong. I wasn’t just getting old. Something was making my body hurt.

I’m not sure how I even realized the problem was something I was eating, though I’m pretty sure it happened mid-meal. Suddenly I realized my back wasn’t the source of my problems at all; it was my stomach.

It’s all connected in there

Our diet affects us far more than we realize. The older I get, the more I realize I have to be careful what I consume. Just shy a year ago, when I started trying to lose weight, I cut back on the amount of dairy and cheese I consumed. They tend to be high-fat foods and I was learning the appeal of low fat substitutes. As soon as I started eating less cheese, I noticed something peculiar; I felt less sick.

Lactose intolerance runs in my family. It’s always been hovering in the back of my mind that I might not be able to eat milk forever. Which is a harsh reality when you love cheese as much as I do. (Though I don’t love it quite as much as my husband does.) But it was easy to cut down to the types of cheeses that are easy on the stomach (cheddar, parmesan and swiss).

Still, I made myself aware of easy substitutes, just in case I ever had to draw on that knowledge. It’s easy when coffee shops tend to offer 2 or 3 non-dairy options these days.

Having recently changed my diet, and having felt great in the process, it never occurred to me that I might have stumbled upon an eating habit that made me sick. It never occurred to me the tiny amount of dairy I still consume might be less palatable now that I eat so little of it. I just carried on eating the same foods that made me feel good six months ago, heedless of the fact that they made me feel awful now.

Change is daunting, but good health is worth the effort

When the time came to cut dairy, it sucked. I had just gone through a major change of diet and it wasn’t easy. Now I had to do it all over again. In lots of ways, it felt like moving back to square one. But after a few days, it quickly became apparent that I’m not back at square one. The work I did a year ago to change my diet has made it much easier to make new changes than it would have been if I had to cut dairy when I started dieting a year ago.

Most importantly, though, I’m starting to feel good again. Going two or three days without dairy was enough to prove to me the problem is food, and the change is worthwhile. I’m still in the early stages, and eating something that doesn’t agree with me still sets me back pretty hard. But I consulted with my doctor and I have a food chart to guide me. So I’m feeling pretty good about moving forward.

Only I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to figure out what was going on with my body. My biggest take away from all this is that it’s far too easy to ignore when you start to feel off. You spend so much time rationalizing the situation that pain becomes the new normal. And it’s only when you falter beneath the weight of carrying regular life stresses while feeling unwell that you finally start to pay attention.

If you think your body is trying to get your attention, please listen! Change seems daunting when you stare down the barrel of it, but it’s worth it to feel like yourself again.

And everyone I’ve talked to along the way has been amazingly supportive. Everyone has a brand recommendation or an ingredient substitution or a recipe I can try, which has made this entire process a lot less harrowing.

Saying goodbye to cheese has, indeed, sucked. But it feels so darn good to be ME again.

As for the house situation – I hope to have an update on that soon!

3 Replies to “Maintaining A Healthy Lifestyle Can Be Difficult”

    1. Thanks :) It felt really good to talk about it. It’s been a rough ride, but I finally feel like I’m making progress!

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