Written by Carol Traulsen.
Often a serious condition or illness will cause us to make changes. If we have a heart condition or high blood pressure we change our diets and begin an exercise program. If a friend or loved one has cancer we remember to get ourselves screened. It's a pity it takes a shock so close to home to get us to re-evaluate how we live, had to keep reminding myself again to. Unhealthy habits can be changed.. Yet often we make it harder than it has to be.
I am unlucky enough to have inherited my high blood pressure form my mother. She was a thin woman who ate a very healthy diet and didn't smoke. Like her even medication doesn't appear to have enough of an effect on my blood pressure. Along with taking medication I have to had to change my diet a bit. I had to cut down on sodium. It caused my hands and fingers to swell and general bloating along with extremely elevated blood pressure.
At one point I had to take medication for cancer treatment too. There were side effects. It caused weight gain, and water retention. For years I struggled with my self -image and the side effects of both medications. I was doing what I was supposed to do. My health was improving. I just wasn't happy with how I looked. I had keep reminding myself that this wasn't the end of the journey. At this point dealing with the side effects of cancer treatment was harder than the side effects from high blood pressure. My body had changed, I had to figure out what the new normal looked like and if this was it I had to adjust.
I'm not the type who can be all Zen and 'In The Moment.' That is a skill I am still learning, and most of the time it's a painful lesson. I felt like I needed a better plan. I promised to stop eating junk food filled with salt, and to quit eating dessert and drinking alcohol all together. I promised myself I'd see food merely as fuel. I'd work out hard and have my old body back even if it killed me. Those were promises I knew I couldn't keep, but I still made them to myself.
The diet adjustment went well at first. When I reduced my sodium intake I found I had less bloating and it did lower my blood pressure a little. I was already exercising but the extra weight I was carrying as a result of the cancer medication refused to come off. I reduced my caloric intake again and it didn't help, it only left me cranky and nauseous. I was so discouraged I just went back to my old habits. The last four years had left me feeling depressed and completely out of control. I wasn't in control of my own body or my own life.
I had to start small and work my way up. If some things didn't change I would have to be at peace with that. I'd learned from my doctor that some of the changes may be permanent. I began a regular schedule of exercise, but I listened to my body. If it felt like I needed to slow down or stop I did. I added things to my diet instead of taking away. I added more veggies, and more water. I used the vegetables in our organic garden in new recipes. I allowed myself small treats, daily. It kept me from feeling deprived. I learned a valuable lesson about the way I have to live my life. Food, wine, laughter, bring me joy. Above everything leading a joyful life is important to me.
I've lost most of the weight, I'm the only one who thinks I could still lose a couple pounds (I'm 130lbs.) I still exercise daily. I drink a little less coffee and a little less wine than I used to. When I eat dessert it's a smaller portion or I share with my husband. I'm off my cancer meds and the new normal is one that I can live with. Living a more natural life also means living more authentically. It means accepting myself and my faults. I probably won't become the poster child for natural living anytime soon, but I know every day I'm making progress.