Where to begin with the huge subject of Health and Lifestyle? Whole talk shows manage to make this the cornerstone of their daily episodes. Celebrities the land over bombard us with new "plans". Reputable scientists and doctors - and those of questionable credit, moreover - churn out book after book.
I'm feeling sort of overwhelmed.
So I thought I'd start at the start - give you the personal preamble (honest but not so brief, to be honest), the reason I turned my mind to this monstrous topic in the first place:
I was in pretty good shape during my 20s. What does that mean exactly? Well, I was a vegetarian for a number of years, I walked miles a day (always have), did upwards of 10 hours of yoga a week (I was an Iyengar teacher throughout my 20s), got a lot of sleep and my weight was stable. I was also addicted to sugar and rather stressed, but then what self-respecting 20-something isn't?
I had a baby just before I turned 30. It was a turning point and, in brief, it was a destabilizing experience for me. My introduction to parenthood was by my own standards hideously stressful. I went through labour drug-free (yes, I am an idiot); there were complications. Then there were initial, post-natal concerns about my daughter's health. I am so grateful to say she's a healthy, happy, thriving girl. But the first couple of weeks of motherhood were traumatizing and they escalated my already keen levels of anxiety. The three years that followed were a haze of sleep-deprived misery. I did not enjoy motherhood. I feared it. (Never mind that I was also working full time, trying to co-manage a household, maintain a marriage and reclaim some small sliver of my former self...)
To compensate - well, I did many things to compensate, but the ones that are most germane to this discussion are these:
- I ate. Like a lot. Like bags of cookies and chips. In stress-induced fits after prime time.
- I abused sugar and caffeine. (That did wonders for my personality.)
- I elevated anxious behaviours to an artform.
- I walked compulsively.
- I did a lot of yoga in the middle of the night.
- I didn't go to bed until fatigue overwhelmed me, so as to avoid being woken by that curdling nighttime cry that tiny children come out with, only during the depths of their parents' sleep cycle.
By the time my child was 6, I'd burned the candle to the extent that it was a nub of string and a mushy goo. I was unwell constantly. I had gained weight. I had other intriguing physical symptoms (the indicators of extreme stress and an immune system that was all but shot). I got really sick and had to take 2 weeks off from work on doctor's orders. I spent that entire 2 weeks in a crush of sickness. It was enough time to seriously consider the impact of my lifestyle on my health for the long term. And then I realized: it really had to change.
Bear with me, I know this post is a behemoth.
Being the kind of girl I am, and under the influence of those OTC medications that cause me to hallucinate, I developed a sort of strategic plan for wellness expressing the mandate to restore balance of mind, body and ego (that's the lose weight and pallor part, in case it's not clear) by whatever means necessary. And being the kind of girl I am, I hit this sucker over the head with 87 tactics simultaneously, simply to increase the odds of my success.
BTW, I mention all of this, not to overshare, but to contextualize what comes next. I am very fortunate in that I started from a position of health (in my 20s) and that I was holistically-minded. Very fortunate that I am educated about diet, nutrition, exercise (specifically yoga) and other modalities to restore wellness. Very fortunate that I made the choice to change and that I am willing and able to incur the ongoing (and occasionally steep) costs ($$$ - but also discipline) of my "transformation".
Tomorrow, I'll talk more about the mandate and those high-level tactics. (Now I bet you're really starting to wonder about what kind of crazy ass day job I have :-))