The other day I woke up and thought to myself, “Hey, I’m going to eat healthy today. I can do it.” Not ten minutes later I had a stare-off with….a bagel. A BAGEL! My subconscious immediately went through the stages of grief, except this time, it was the stages of hanger. First, craving…followed swiftly by denial. Then volcanic and eruptive anger manifested by a complete ugly cry meltdown in the shower (Not kidding). Trailed by bargaining and rationalizing. Picture this: Henry (with his clothes on), holding me in the running shower as I sobbed; a naked, little wet chihuahua…all because of food. I’m not even lying when I say that I’ve had more meltdowns about trying to be healthy than I’ve had about having lung disease. What does that say about me?
I had no idea that my resolve to be healthy proved weak when paired against a 3 ounce compound of smooth, gluttonous processed flour and sugar (don’t even get me started on cream cheese, which I could eat with a spoon). I’ve known for this whole [lung disease] period of my life that I’ve really needed to tune up my bodily intake to involve more than what a 5-year-old would eat if she were left to her own devices. Let’s face it, I’ve known my whole life that I should be taking better care of my precious spirit vehicle. But I lack some serious will power. Like, I really suck at it.
You know why? – and here comes the whining, nasal head voice – because sometimes I feel like I have no control over anything. I feel like I have no say in this whole lung disease thing. And sometimes, I just want to eat an entire pizza by myself. I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve allowed food to become my escape. I’m the queen of eating my feelings: I eat when I’m happy, I eat when I’m sad, I eat when I’m not sleeping, I eat Henry’s food when he’s distracted. It seems food is wrapped up in everything I do. The word addiction comes to mind; it’s a word I don’t mean to take lightly because I know that is a real trial, but sometimes I feel like my day revolves around what I’m going to eat next. Even when I’m full, I find my self wanting to eat just to eat. It feels like a crime to demote food to a single idea: fuel.
Maybe the real crime is the alternative.
Horace (whom I want to believe was a really wise owl or falcon) said, “Rule your mind, or it will rule you.” Well, that expression should change to, “Rule your stomach or it will rule you.” My stomach is my master! How did I let this happen? I’m pushing 30. You’d think I’d have figured out how to be a grown up by now, knowing which foods to eat and how important exercise and good daily habits are. I read about powerful working women my age in magazines, discussing their daily routines and all the things they do to stay fit and “glowy” and I think, “Skinny witches. Nobody really does that crap!…Do they?” I’m trying not to be too hard on myself and to not compare myself to others. But hey, you have to start somewhere, and what better “somewhere” than Monday?
Monday was invented for starting diets. Today is no exception. And let me start off by saying that I need help. I need support. I’m being vulnerable here and asking, no, pleading, “How do you healthy people do this?!” I’ve been there before….however brief. I went a whole two weeks off carbs. I know. Not exactly American Ninja Warrior status, but for me, it was extreme. I did it! And it was hard, but it wasn’t without sacrifice. I had to plan better. I spent more on groceries and fresh produce. Nothing was quick and easy. That being said, I felt in control and I felt so much better. My stomach wasn’t bloated all the time. I had more energy. My brain felt less foggy. I felt like the master of my ship. I also felt closer to my spirit. I was taking care of my body and treating it like the gift it is. Like a temple.
But, I fell off the horse. And today, I’m starting again.
So…here’s my plan (and I tell you this so you can hold me accountable):
Food: I’m going to be strict about my no Gluten policy. One step further, I’m going to avoid “carby” things (breads, potatoes, treats, sugars). If I cheat it will be with brown rice and the occasional corn tortilla. No fried foods. Ok…no fast food. yikes. No soda. or juice. Oh boy. Drink more water, Mack! Prepare meals. More fruit. More veggies. More protein. Healthy breakfasts. Minimum dairy usage. I guess it’s time to stop following @buzzfeedtasty on Facebook.
Exercise: 1. Dress for war. Put the sports bra on every day. Does anyone else feel like half the battle is just putting on the spandex? Once I’m dressed to work out, I’m usually good to go which brings me to number 2. Put the Lycra to good use and break a sweat. Or in my case, get the blood pumping, which can literally be as little as getting the mail. It doesn’t take much these days and with these lungs.
I start my 8 week pulmonary rehab tomorrow. This is a hospital sponsored program I’ll go to twice a week to exercise, while being monitored by healthcare professionals whose sole purpose is to make sure I don’t Tae Bo myself into an early grave. On the days I’m not there I will do some form of exercise (walking, light weights, chair yoga, opening jars). I’ve been told by doctor after doctor that exercise is still very important, even if it looks different to me now (and by “different”, I mean three and a half crunches on the lido deck before my 3 o’clock sponge bath and 4 o’clock dinner of chicken broth and soft crackers). I’m already at that stage of life.
Sidenote: I’m on 40mg of steroids every day. They turn everyday meals into a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. Henry calls it “ROID RAGE.” I’m also currently on 500mg of Cellcept twice a day. Both immunosuppressive drugs. My doctor told me, in his eloquent Indian accent, “You will gain weight. You will get puffy. You will get swollen. You will retain water.” Wonderful, like I didn’t already have these problems. And yet, these two medications will improve my breathlessness over the course of the next 4 weeks. That’s the hope, at least. In the meantime, I want to give my body a fighting chance at healing.
The goal: 8 weeks of total loyalty and solidarity to this program. The 26th of September through the 21th of November (just in time for Thanksgiving…see what I did there?). At the end of 8 weeks, I’ll see where I am.
For reference, I’m 5’6”, 170 pounds and a size 12 (or as Henry put it: “stop trying to upstage my bra size!”). I don’t share these numbers as a “before” stage, by any means, or to compare myself to anyone else, but to be transparent about the skin I’m in and the fact that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to health, fitness, body image or self-worth. Heaven knows, I’m not perfect at loving my body, but I’m also not one to undervalue what I’ve got.
My body has biked the 100 mile white rim sandstone road and hiked to the crystal blue waters of Havasupai. She’s jumped out of a plane and walked the cobble stone streets of Europe. My body has danced across stages and saved a life on a zip line. She sings. She laughs. And she carries me through this life. She’s the reason I feel. She’s the reason I’m here.
I’m not trying to reach an unrealistic expectation. I just want to be a better me. I want to be healthier. I want to be a master of my human appetites. Most importantly, I want to gain a stronger testimony of the Word of Wisdom. The Lord has promised beautiful blessings when we treasure and value our bodies:
“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their naval and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.”
Feel free to join along on the path of better choices. You’ll have a friend in arms. Let the battle of the bulge begin!