One’s Health Is Not An Easy Journey
Our health is a journey: ups and downs, positives and negatives. Thinking of healthy as a daily concern makes it difficult to build toward a more lasting, healthy lifestyle. It is not the short term but the long-term journey that matters the most. This journey has taught me that health shouldn’t wait until it forces your hand — you should already be thinking about your health journey before you have problems!
I was compelled to learn about my health and mental well-being because my body forced me to. After entering law school, the stresses and challenges that came increasingly had me feeling that my body was shutting down. The bad days started to outnumber the good days, and pain started to influence my life. My stomach would not digest food and I was rapidly losing weight — which, at first, I welcomed! (Who doesn’t?!). But then, I couldn’t stop losing weight.
Some days, my energy levels were so depleted, it was a chore to get out of bed and do normal things (get dressed, brush my teeth, attempt to behave like a human).
As with any medical issue, I went to my doctor, who sent me to GI specialists, who ran some tests and decided I had IBS. Ok, so what does that mean? It means a lifetime of these issues including taking medicines that may help only in the short term. The core issues remained.
Part of the problem was that I refused to believe I could be healthy and eat anything I wanted for twenty plus years and then that would just stop. I knew I suffered from increased stress and anxiety from law school with all the associated pressures. However, I could not accept that this was what I was going to be forced to deal with. I want a family; would my body ever be strong enough to carry a child? I want to travel the world, but how can I do that when some days, getting out of bed seems like the other side of the world?
My health started to invade my life choices including my dreams of moving abroad and traveling to exotic locations. Embracing all that life had to show me was slipping away as I began to fear being too far from my doctors, therefore slipping into yet another “bad cycle” without the support of my family and doctors. However, I was lucky. I kept believing one thing: my body wants to heal itself, I just need to give it the support to do so.
I started to look outside the traditional physician world. I talked to people; I became open about my journey. The first step was to stop loading my body up with medicines (antibiotics, steroids, etc.). I just stopped. I then started to focus on my nutrition and finding outlets for my anxiety and stress. I took walks, did yoga, and re-engaged with life in any small, incremental way.
My diet became so restrictive, I sometimes cried in a store or restaurant because it was so overwhelming what I could not eat.
At one point, I could only eat cooked vegetables, chicken, and hard cheese — that was it. And sometimes, even those foods caused issues. I cut out all grains, processed sugar, and most carbohydrates. And slowly, very slowly, I started to improve.
I explored holistic doctors who understood my frustrations and encouraged me in these dietary pursuits. They understood that I wanted to fix the root cause — whatever it was that got my system “off”. I did nutritional response testing, I used and still use supplements to decrease my inflammation.
Today, I am much further along the path, both physically and mentally. While I still have good and bad days, the good days outnumber the bad. My food tolerance has drastically improved allowing me once again to eat an *almost* normal diet. Still, my health journey continues. I now know so much more about feeding my body in a healthy manner. I’m ensuring I have the protein and the whole foods my body needs to function well. I now work on being kind to myself: on bad days, when before I would have pushed myself to the max, I am learning to step back and be ok with a limitation. It’s a journey I am still on — one I will work on for the rest of my life.
I had to learn that taking a holistic approach including lifestyle, mental state, and physical wellness were keys to my health.
Here is what I’ve learned. Look for future articles delving deeper into these topics.
You are what you eat: When you eat bad food, you feel bad. When you eat clean, good, wholesome food, you feel better. Balance is key: eat the chocolate, just don’t consider it a staple. Go out with friends, and have fun. Because being hyper-aware of your diet and food can be just as negative as eating bad food. The key is starting to become aware of what you eat. It is the first step to a successful journey.
Attainable Goals: Yes, some of us have dreams of running a marathon, hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, climbing Mount Everest, etc. And, while I encourage everyone to have these lofty goals, the first step to a healthy life is setting attainable goals. Make a plan that works with your Health should be part of your life, not something that you force yourself to do.
Think Positive: It sounds cliché, but it is true. Your mental attitude towards your own health journey is key. There will be bad days; but, the key is keep the forward momentum. In the beginning of my health journey, I felt lost. But I began to build that support network, people who would pick me up when I couldn’t do it anymore. A successful journey is the result of creating a strong community of support — build that community as you start on this journey.