I have historically been terrible with prioritizing my physical wellness in a way that is sustainable and healthy. This is a post about that, and my journey to head in a better path. If that sounds interesting to you, my story is below.
As I said, physical wellness has been my demon for a long time.
The depression of lockdown and a global pandemic only increased the severity of this issue. I remember going to a good friend’s wedding last year and literally having to buy “fat pants” because I wasn’t able to fit into any nice clothing. It was horribly embarrassing and a significant blow to my self-esteem.
My entire life, I have “lived to eat” versus “eating to live” and it was finally catching up with me. I looked puffy, my knees were always sore, and I eternally needed some sort of snack. My spouse was seriously concerned over my long-term health due to risks like heart disease and diabetes.
I don’t consider myself to be a stupid person. But this problem was really stumping me. The challenge of rewiring my entire reward system (e.g. dopamine) in a way that promoted a healthy lifestyle while working from home seemed daunting.
Here’s what I did.
Shifting perception and control
The first step was to admit that something had to change in my own perception of the world. I needed to make my problem bigger. So, I hired a holistic coach (Jess is awesome!) and made physical wellness one of my three priorities, with the others being social and occupational health. Having someone asking me about my goals and priorities, along with the committed actions and small wins to achieve them, was a good way to see the problem from a new angle.
I started making teeny-tiny changes to my routine. I bought a water rowing machine using funds from my work’s “Thrive” account for health and wellness. Every day, I’d row for about 5 minutes, and that was it. An impossibly small amount of time to refuse, and something easy to do in the little cracks of my daily schedule.
This committed action helped me do two things:
- I reconnected with the sense of joy derived from movement. Humans are designed to move, and our bodies reward us with endorphins.
- The reward was in doing the rowing, not the improvements achieved from the investment.
Eventually, I found myself wanting to do more than 5 minutes. Sometimes I do 5 or 10, other times I like to take a leisurely row for 30 minutes. I like to row until I feel like stopping. It’s freeing and relaxing and there is a subtle joy to feeling bones and muscles work in a harmony of movement.
Sugar is poison
My next step was to assess my strategy for daily calories. And I didn’t want to go back to something as toxic as Keto or any other fad diet. I needed some real science on how to properly consume healthy calories that worked cooperatively with fat burning.
I went for a detailed panel of blood tests to set a baseline. Numerous things were all wildly below normal. Things like B12, D3, and K2 were lacking. Most interesting was cholesterol and insulin amounts. It seemed that my standard “American diet” of sugar intake was the single most toxic thing I was consuming. Everything from processed sugars to added sugars were combining to spike my insulin levels and forcing artery walls to thicken.
Pretty scary stuff. My Grandfather died way too early due to health problems. I didn’t want to repeat those mistakes!
Taking committed action
My spouse and I decided to lock hands and beat this sugar thing, together, with daily measurements and weigh-ins. We snagged the 21-Day Sugar Detox guide and gave the program a chance. I gave heads up to close friends and co-workers as a courtesy – this would be a major change, and their support was needed. We started on July 1, 2022.
For the first 6 or so days, I was in misery. My head hurt, I was super cranky and moody, and I felt off balance. I lost 12 lbs of water weight, largely due to all the glucose being flushed from my bloodstream. I made sure to drink about 1 gallon (4.5 L) of water per day to avoid dehydration. I tracked each day on a calendar by adding fun shapes and colors for when I followed through with the detox.
Over the remaining 15 days of the first detox, everything changed.
- My face changed shape, from round and puffy to more narrow and with better defined cheekbones.
- I stopped craving food. For the first time, I started thinking of food as just fuel instead of an emotional refuge.
- My mild-medium Asthma went away.
- The feeling of good vibes and joy permeated my days – I felt great!
Example things to eat
I also spent time trying all sorts of healthier options for snacks and meals.
Here’s a few of my favorites!
- Quinoa as my primary morning protein; boil it first, then assemble just like overnight oats
- Carrots for snacks, with some French onion dip
- No sugar added jerky (Chomps) for on the go
- Raw, whole nuts – almonds, pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts
- Cheese, such as sharp cheddar and mozzarella string cheese (’cause it’s fun)
- Organic bananas – once per day as a treat (they are SUPER SWEET tasting when you detox)
- Just about any green vegetable, with my favorites being snow peas and green beans
Incredible changes to physical wellness
I’ve held to the sugar detox guidelines for nearly 5 months now. I’ll never go back.
Combined with the 5+ minutes of rowing per day, here’s what I’ve noticed:
- I’ve lost right around 45 lbs (~20 kg) and 8 waist sizes this year under the watchful expertise of my wellness practitioners (chiropractor, NP, message therapist).
- My joints are still adjusting to all the weight loss. My knees send me a daily “thank you” note and all of the previously associated pain and inflammation is completely gone.
- Intermittent fasting has been automatic. I’m not hungry for long periods of time thanks to the liver continuously burning fat. I continue to drink 0.7 – 1.0 gallons of water per day.
- I’ve since added free weights, foam rolling, and calisthenics to my movement routine. I can touch my toes!
- No cravings and no more food delivery, sodas, or processed foods. As a result, our food bill has been cut in HALF.
- We make delicious, organic food for every day living. Things like a hot bowl of chili, quinoa protein bowls, salt and pepper shrimp, and fire roasted vegetable soup. Much of it can be made in bulk and frozen without any impact on taste.
- None of my clothing fits, which is an oddly fun problem to solve. I still need to get my more dressy clothing altered.
- Interestingly enough, my last 🦷 dentist visit was fantastic. Plaque stands no chance of forming without sugar. I was in and out of a cleaning in 15 minutes flat.
I feel confident in myself. Living these changes day after day gives me hope that I have set my life on a new course. That hope is the source of my confidence, as each new day is another data point of success to encourage more growth.
All of this to say
First, I’m not a doctor and don’t pretend to be one.
With that said, if any of this sounds like you, you are not alone. I couldn’t solve this problem by myself. I needed the help of those around me to challenge my perceptions and support my growth decisions.
Feeling depressed and isolated is a real thing, and it’s very hard to beat. But it can be beat!
For me, 5 minutes of committed movement (rowing) per day, coupled with a lifestyle that actively avoids consuming sugar (processed, added, complex carbs, sugary fruits) has paid off in Spades. Everything from there and beyond is yours to explore.
Give it a try! You have nothing to lose and so, so much to gain.
✌ Peace and love