A few weeks ago, I was tagged by Evita at Evolving Beings to do six random bits of information about myself. Since I like the way she themed hers to spiritual and personal growth, I have decided to do my six nuggets of info on my journey towards a healthier lifestyle.
For the most part of my life, I had never been concerned about a healthy lifestyle. Like many other women, I dieted if I was getting above the weight where I felt comfortable, but those were more crash diets than healthy diets. Otherwise, fast food, lots of soda, energy drinks, minimal water, little to no exercise, and anything the doctor prescribed to combat problems arising due to my lifestyle choices worked for me.
After a doctor’s visit in the June of 2007, during which I was told I may need to get on cholesterol medication for a rising cholesterol level, I had finally had enough. I came to the realization that it was not normal that I was going to my PCP every three months to have my liver tested to make sure it was still functioning properly. Not because I was a raging alcoholic, but because I was taking so many OTC and prescribed drugs. Pills to make me happy, calm my anxiety, help me sleep, relieve heartburn, digest dairy products, relax muscles, minimize the pain of migraines 3 – 4 times a month, suppress my allergies, and so on and so forth. And now they were considering adding another one onto the list, one which I have comes with many unexpected and undesirable side effects.
The most obvious, non-medicinal solution to fixing a variety of my problems was by changing my diet. Reducing the soda and eliminating the energy drinks altogether would help my insomnia and anxiety. Going vegetarian would reduce my cholesterol. And because I always fully immerse myself into new things, I decided to take it one step further and go vegan, to see if it helped with some other issues I was having which were also antagonized by diet. So, as non-veg as it sounds, I went cold turkey. The day after I decided, I started a completely vegetarian diet. And a week later, vegan. It didn’t seem to difficult, although I must admit, a year and a half later, I’m leaning towards just vegetarian. As a child, I had to be bribed into eating meat by having my vegetables withheld. This says to me that ever since birth, before I consciously knew better, my body knew that I was meant to live a vegetarian lifestyle.
Although the religious meaning to “man does not live on bread alone” has nothing to do with supplements, it certainly seems fitting. The change in diet is not a fix for everything, but certainly the step in the right direction. In addition to the vegetarian diet, I have researched the internet and alternative medicine books for supplements and natural remedies to replace OTC / Rx drugs for certain ailments. Vitamins and Emergen-C to boost immunity during the flu season, lysine for cold sores, cranberry to prevent UTI, stinging nettle for allergies, and flax seed oil with omega-3′s to aid in heart health and help with depression and anxiety. I also drink a vegan protein shake everyday.
I saw many benefits from just the diet change and supplement intake. But the best results came after I started incorporating some exercise into the picture. I don’t mind weight machines, but I was never the type to do treadmills or stair steppers in the workout room, even though I knew exercise that gets the heart rate up are beneficial in so many ways. So in addition to the yoga I was already doing, my fiancé got me into tennis and ballroom dancing. In a few weeks, we are planning to join a gym and start doing some muscle training to aide in better tennis and better shape. The combination of exercise and diet has made a huge difference in my level of energy and overall positive mood.
At my last annual checkup a week or two ago, my doctor reviewed my medication history, and was amazed that I was not on most of the daily meds, and taking less of the ones for migraines, which I now get much less frequently. My cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and other tests came out good. When I told her what I had been doing in terms of dietary and lifestyle change, she said that she wished she could bottle that formula up and have more people take that approach in terms of their health. She said that while most people know they can make natural changes to improve their health, not many are able to make the sacrifices and stick to them.
One thing I would like to note is that there is not a natural solution for everything. There are still medications I take, such as migraine medicine (Zomig) when the homeopathic cure just does not cut it, muscle relaxers (occasionally) when I tweak something while playing tennis, and antibiotics if I get a major infection. Anytime you are going to make a drastic health change, it is important to do a LOT of research and talk to your doctor – maybe even consider a second opinion if your doctor is one of those that does not take alternative medicine seriously. It takes a lot of mental preparation and motivation to make a change, and even more to maintain it.