The end of summer not only brings cooler weather; it also means a return to work for me. I’m a teacher.
Autumn brings the beauty of golden leaves scattered across the ground, but it also leads to something less enjoyable.
Returning to work brings back the reality of life, and stress comes as a package with the busy routine of work.
Let’s go back a bit.
This summer, I made significant progress at tracking my lifestyle habits, with a Lifestyle Log I designed. I used it to identify whether what I was doing was moving me closer to my goal of optimal health and an ideal weight, or if what I was doing was not helping me achieve my goals.
The Lifestyle Log was working! I recognized my patterns.
I saw my weight steadily decline when I ate well and when I moved my body often. I felt better, had more energy and was happier.
On the other hand, I also saw my weight rise when I indulged too much and acted like a couch potato. I then lacked energy and felt more sluggish.
So, if the Lifestyle Log was effective, what happened? Why did I stop using it?
Work happened. Back to teaching. Back to work. Busy days. Plans to make. Meetings to attend. Students and parents to get to know. Back to the busy routine.
I haven’t posted a Lifestyle Log in almost a month. In fact, I feel like I’ve lost that summer person who was committed to eating well and seeking optimal health.
I veered off course, eating unhealthy food and not exercising; I’ve moved away from the person I was in the summer…the person I want to be.
I realized the other day that this hectic, stressful life is one many of us are living on a daily basis. Whether you have two weeks off a year, or four weeks, or an entire summer, when we work, we are busy, busy, busy…with work, family, recreation and social lives. We call this frenzied life, normal.
Sometimes in our hectic lives, stress simmers below the surface. Stress can become a bigger problem and lead to headaches, illnesses and exhaustion.
We know stress isn’t healthy, and that we should deal with it. Many people try deep breathing exercises, meditation, talking to a counselor and so on.
Another great way to combat stress is to eat healthy foods that nourish our bodies and help to keep our minds calm.
When we get so busy, though, CAN we really stay on course with our healthy eating goals? It seems impossible.
It’s definitely a challenge. So, what are the options?
When I’m on the bad-eating bandwagon, I can say to myself, “What the hell!” or “I don’t care.” because I’m so busy, and I don’t want to deal with the “hassle” of eating well.
If I take this attitude, then I’m not just giving up on eating well, I’m giving up on me.
I don’t want to do that.
When things get tough, it’s easy to give up.
It’s easy to order a pizza. It’s easy to pick up take-out on the way home from work. It’s easy to buy and eat convenience foods. It’s easy to open a package. It’s easy to justify unhealthy eating because, “I’m just too tired to cook”.
It’s harder to plan out the healthy foods I want to buy at the grocery store. It’s harder to clean and prepare vegetables and other healthy foods in advance. It’s harder to put together a home-cooked meal that’s healthy.
Well, life is hard.
Or is it? Compared to the quality of life millions of people around the world endure, life is a breeze for me. It’s time to stop feeling sorry for myself and my busy life.
It’s time to put on my big-girl panties and regroup.
If you’ve read any of my past blog posts, you already know this isn’t the first time I’ve tried a “reset”.
I’m also not the only one. So many of us keep trying and trying to eat better and live healthier lives. We keep shooting for success.
It doesn’t matter how many times I choose to reset my habits, my life. What matters is that I keep trying.
Today, I’m stepping outside of my stressed, busy self and having a closer look. Today, I’m recommitting to getting back on track.
It won’t happen all at once. I won’t be perfect, but I will begin to get reacquainted with that person I knew this summer.
One of the ways I reconnect to who I am and to my values is by reflecting. Taking some time to really think. How am I feeling? What am I doing? What do I want to be doing?
For me I am most effective at reflection when I write. That’s when I have my light-bulb moments.
Just writing this post is helping me reflect on where I am and where I want to be. Another word for this process is journaling or meditative writing. Regardless of what you call it, it can be very helpful.
In order to journal, you don’t have to think of yourself as a writer. You don’t have to be a good writer either. You can probably get some of what’s inside your head on paper (or on the computer, which is how I like to do it), if you give it a chance.
Reflective writing can be hugely therapeutic, and I highly recommend it.
Back to my reset.
As I think about what to do next…
I’m not sure if I’ll continue to track habits on my Lifestyle Log. At the end of the summer, I was tracking 12 habits, which I don’t think is sustainable for me right now. It worked, when I had each day to myself and was on vacation from work.
For now, I might just pick a few key habits I want to focus on. Perhaps I’ll just think on it for a while, and then decide.
The point is that whether I’m working, or on vacation in the summer, I need to take care of myself. I need to eat well, so I have the energy and strength to deal with the stresses that come with daily life.
Eating well = Health. This is not a news bulletin.
We all need to remember that our health is the most important thing we have. We might have it now, but for how long?
Some people think they should be able to eat and drink what they want because life is short. I understand that kind of thinking, but the problem is that most of the time, that’s not how it turns out.
Most of us don’t die suddenly.
Instead of dropping dead, we are living longer and longer, but endure years of pain and disease during those last years. It’s the long-lasting chronic diseases that kill most of us.
The two leading causes of death in Canada are cancer, followed by heart disease (also called cardiovascular disease, or CVD).
In the U.S., heart disease is winning, followed by cancer.
Research shows that lifestyle contributes to heart disease and cancer. Lifestyle includes the food you eat, the way you move or do not move your body, and many other factors (alcohol consumption, social connections, etc.).
Obesity and diabetes are risk factors for both cancer and heart disease.
I want to avoid obesity and diabetes. I don’t want a chronic disease.
Currently, I have an extra 30-40 lbs on my body. I’m sure my body doesn’t enjoy it. In the last week or so, after 3-4 weeks of eating a variety of unhealthy foods I normally wouldn’t eat, I can feel joint pain in my ankles and knees. That pain is not there when I eat well.
My body is telling me it’s not happy.
Joint pain can lead to arthritis, another chronic condition. No thanks.
I’ve read many, many stories of people eating a whole foods, plant-based diet that have healed their chronic diseases. It IS possible because people are doing it.
Such good news!
My goal, however, isn’t to get a chronic disease and then heal it. I want to eat healthy foods to PREVENT chronic diseases in the first place. Not rocket science!
Avoiding arthritis, diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases are the reasons I keep trying to move toward optimal health. Even though there are times I feel like giving up for good…I won’t give up on me.
As I take some time to regroup, I will focus on getting back to eating healthier food more consistently. I will also aim to eat less of the crap.
I don’t have a solid game plan yet, but I’m working on it. Most importantly, I’m taking the first step by recognizing that it’s time for change, for action.
Wish me luck.
Wishing you health and success on your journey,