Health and wellness. That old saying tells us that if you have your health, you have everything. However, health can mean much more than physical wellness. This week, we want to know what it means to you.
I’ve had a difficult time with this challenge. Each time I start a post, I end it by clicking on “Move to Trash”. I could not formulate a story, which is silly for someone who has tried to regularly focus on health and healthy eating habits for close to 15 years. The reason may be having too much to write about, such as the trials and tribulations of lifelong scoliosis. (I’ve had a curvature of the spine since very young – back when chiropractic was considered “voodoo” and the doctor told my parents, “Tell her to quit slouching and sit up straight.”) I’ve also gone through several eras in my life: The fat-free era, the low/no-carb era, the crazy Atkins diet era, and the “you-don’t-have-to-exercise-just-take-this-little-pill” era. I didn’t subscribe to any of those eras as I educated myself on healthy fats, carbohydrates that are good for you, and Mediterranean-type eating habits (love my olive oil, fruits, fish, veggies). I subscribed to health newsletters and Cooking Light magazine. I watched healthy living shows on TV. I became extremely interested in healthy living.
Most important, I began exercising regularly in my early 40’s by enrolling in a yoga class at the YMCA. I was active in my 20’s and 30’s (never overweight), but did not invest in regular exercise until I looked at a picture of myself in a sleeveless shirt. I was scrawny and my arms had all of the muscle tone of a stick figure.
Up to life as a yogi, I had bouts of attention deficit with bicycling, swimming, walking, and aerobics. I would get interested for a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, and then whatever I was doing would fall by the wayside. Pitiful. Yoga practice changed that and it eventually led to regular exercise and a gym membership so that I could enjoy the benefits of working with weights. This past year, I found a love of swimming and going for spins on the mountain bike that my brother gave me. My friend, Natasha, led me to a small gym class and awesome instructor whose workouts turned both of us into Babe, the blue ox (sadly, the classes ended). I have found that if my exercise routine is varied, I will stick with it. It also helps to have a friend, like Natasha, who shares health interests and keeps me in line. At times, I struggle with motivation (in the dead of winter or with the desire for horizontal couch testing) and there are weeks when my evening schedule gets in the way of gym time. For the most part, though, I’ve stuck with some form of exercise or yoga practice for many years. I enjoy feeling strong and fit. The benefits are amazing. I feel calm, happy and less stressed. I eat fewer morsels of the crappy food that coats arteries (like Oreos). I can lift a 30 lb bag of cat litter without grunting. I can leap tall footstools in a single bound.
On the food side of things, my eating habits have evolved due to age (menopause), arthritis and developing an aversion to dairy. I now eat dairy-free and gluten-free most of the time. I have slipped a bit over the summer months with drinking beer, having brats on a bun, and eating an occasional cookie, but my diet has also included summer fruits and protein shakes. It’s not easy to live in Wisconsin without some form of cheese or gluten product appearing on the restaurant menu, or having to pass a brat and burger stand on a Friday afternoon at the local grocery store. (We love to clog our arteries!) It’s expensive to buy gluten-free and dairy-free anything, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay. I feel better when I eat this way. I’ve lost 10 pounds and I compare this eating lifestyle to being unclogged…like the Roto Rooter man came along and cleaned out my intestinal drain. I simply feel airy and light.
The rest of my healthy living includes an annual physical with my nurse practitioner, the annual squeezing of “the girls”, and regular visits to the chiropractor and myofascial massage therapist. The latter two have been most important in the constant fight with my scoliosis. The curvature in my spine has taken it’s toll and doesn’t get any better with age. I have to stretch certain muscles while strengthening others. I help my body most with regular exercise. My current goal is to be diligent with prescribed stretches, exercises and the use of a foam roller. Sitting at a computer all day isn’t helpful, but it’s difficult to say “no” when it’s a frequent part of the job or when I want to write blog posts. I do think a vacation from the computer at home from time to time would be helpful, if I could pry myself away.
So, with all that I’ve written, I would say that “health” means many things to me. It involves knowledge, motivation, practice and diligence. It requires attention to self and sticking to goals. It means that I value my body enough to treat it well and wrap it in a healthy robe.
Health means that I need to get off the computer and go for a bike ride . . .