What if every moment of the day, I treated my health and well-being like my No. 1 priority? And why don’t I do that?
Backstory: Last week, I got food poisoning, and I went down like a ton of bricks. Although my stomach was totally empty, I threw up harder than I can remember in a couple of decades. At the same time that I couldn’t hold down water, I had waves of hot and cold alternately flashing over my body for 24 hours and a migraine-level headache.
And suddenly every single thing that I put in my mouth was of utmost importance.
I knew I had to stay hydrated to recover quickly, and I drank water, threw it up, drank water again, threw it up, and continued this pattern until I felt better. Why? I knew I would feel much worse if I didn’t drink enough water, so even though it felt like a chore, I drank it. A lot.
I couldn’t eat at all for most of the day.
My daughter offered me tea and dry toast. First I said no to the toast, but I nibbled on it throughout the day as I was able, because I knew that it would help me to feel better. And it did. Later my son cooked up a rich veggie broth for me. By that time I was ready for some nourishment and drank it gratefully. It did make me feel better.
All of that worked so well, in fact, that I was down for only one day before bouncing back to my usual self.
And—suddenly every single thing that I put in my mouth was of little consequence. I mean, I feel better now, right, so I don’t have to watch every bite I take and weigh it on the will-this-make-me-feel-better-or-worse scale. But what if I did? And why don’t I?
It’s easy to skate along on youth and good health. I’ve been doing it since my teens, abusing my body in various ways, with little thought for my long-term health beyond the inevitable beating myself up about my weight—because everybody knows that being overweight is bad for your health.
So it’s easy to slack off, easy to reach for junk food, easy to miss a gym date with myself.
I’m not saying I want to feel sick, but I do want to strive for that level of self-care every day. I’m not talking about some control-freak level of analysis of my own every move, but a simpler thought process: Will this enhance my health? Will this make me feel better or worse? I fall far short of this ideal every single day, but as with every part of this process, I’m counting on baby steps to get me where I want to be.
Behind the scenes of my food poisoning last week, or perhaps aided by an unanticipated day of fasting, my waist is down another inch from the last time I measured it. Since one of my primary goals is to shed gut fat and reduce my risk of diabetes, I’m very excited about this. That brings the grand total since I started this journey a few years ago of 17 whopping inches lost from my waistline. I’ve also dropped another couple of pounds.
I noticed this morning that something which used to be very difficult for me—putting on pants while standing, shifting my weight and balancing on one foot then the other—is now so easy that I do it without thinking, like when I was a kid.
Any time I do physical labor, I feel how much stronger I am now than I was just a few years ago. My grandson still thinks he can beat the ole lady in an arm-wrestling match—but he can’t.
All of these small details of becoming more fit are the “feeling good” that taking care of myself brings. So why don’t I keep my eye on that prize when I’m thinking about whether to work out or if I want to go ahead and have that donut? If only I knew, I could bottle that up, sell it for a jillion bucks, and hit the beach somewhere. Until I get it sorted out, I guess I’ll stick with the baby steps, and with learning little by little as I wend my way through life.
What is your self-care routine? You can reach me at 505-286-1212 or [email protected], or by joining the conversation in my Facebook group, “I’m Losing It!” I’d love to hear from you.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]