A Different Kind of Doctor – Week 28

Since the beginning of the year I have been learning how to live a more holistic, simplistic and natural way of life. Knowing that healing begins on the inside, I decided to start the journey by addressing what was most obviously unhealthy in my life – with my diet and exercise. First, I began my learning about and incorporating more organic, clean, whole foods into my diet. Then, I began looking into specific foods to help with my specific health issues. One day, my mom drove past a sign with the number for a clinic of natural medicine and she passed on the information to me. Weeks later, I finally called and scheduled a consultation with a naturopathic doctor. At the initial meeting, she did a physical (and emotional) exam; we discussed my concerns, my treatment goals and a planned course of action. She explained how naturopathic doctors treat the whole person, not just the symptoms. She described how certain foods can harm your body, while nutrients from other foods can heal your body. She also talked about using food to help manage your moods and emotions. After a thorough discussion about my symptoms, she recommended some steps I could take immediately. These included beginning some vitamin supplements, making some drastic changes to my diet according to my blood type (including adding healthy protein, fruits and vegetables to my menu while eliminating soda, sugar, processed foods, cow’s dairy and red meat) and a homeopathic remedy.

I was able to make most of the dietary changes without too much trouble and started the supplements and remedy as suggested. At my follow-up visit about 3 weeks later, my doctor was impressed with some signs of internal improvement she could see from a second physical exam. It has now been about 5 weeks since I started this new regimen. It really is a lifestyle change – learning how to feed your body instead of your emotions or inner child – and some days are better than others. I can’t be sure if it is the vitamins, the food, the homeopathic remedy, or any combination of these and other steps that I’ve been taking to improve my health and happiness, but most days I feel like something is working. I feel myself getting stronger, feeling healthier and more hopeful, excited, and happy. I have days that I’m not so strong. Days I feel like giving up or just screaming at the world. But I know I didn’t get like this overnight and that I won’t achieve the level of success I desire overnight. Slowly but surely, though…one day at a time, I am becoming more the person I am meant to be.

Nutrition & Fitness – Week 1

I have a terrible diet, high in processed foods, caffeine, sugar and salt. My workouts mostly consist of juggling an infant with chasing a toddler. To correct this, I need to address a couple of different issues. My first challenge is to change the way I think about what I am putting into my body. Instead of merely eating whatever I feel like, I’m looking at food in terms of its nutritional value. Food is energy. Water is hydration. I need to make sure I am consuming the right types of foods in the right quantities to meet the demand of energy I use throughout the day. This is going to require making a lot of small changes to the way I eat.

Usually when I start a “health kick,” I clean most of the junk food out of the house and replace it all with food I think I should be eating. My logic is that when I am hungry I will reach for one of the better options. But the truth is that none of the healthy options are appealing, so I wind up leaving my good-for-me food in my organized and pretty kitchen and head to the nearest drive-thru. And if I won’t eat the healthy food in the house, you can be certain my husband won’t! This is clearly not setting the right precedent for our children. So, instead of trying to do a massive overhaul of our pantry and refrigerator in the beginning, I am slowly incorporating more “clean” whole foods into our meals, watching how much of the “bad stuff” I consume and increasing the amount of water I drink. My hope is that over time I will begin to acquire a taste for some healthier foods.

My second challenge is to use these better foods to make meals both my family and I will actually eat. Right now I am doing this by creating healthy “junk” food options. Basically, I make the same meals I normally do but replace some of the unhealthy options with healthier choices. For instance, this week I have made stir fry for dinner using brown rice instead of white and making my own sauce instead of a store bought sauce high in sodium and MSG. For breakfast this morning, I made omelets with coconut oil instead of margarine, real cheese instead of processed cheese product and had a whole-wheat pita instead of white toast. I know I’m not eating perfectly, but I also know I am eating way more nutritiously than I was last month!

Tools can be incredibly useful if you find the right ones. To help me get on the right track with healthy eating, I have started to use the Fooducate app for Android phones. I love this app! Simply scan the barcode of any product in a store or in your kitchen and the app will give you a grade from A to D. The grades are based on the nutritional content of the food as ranked by scientists, doctors and nutritionists. It also lists nutritional information, ingredients, alternate options, and reviews from other users for each food item. And if you scan an item that is not in the database, you can take a few pictures and send them on their way to Fooducate headquarters in an automatically generated email. It’s definitely a fave!

On top of eating better, I needed to start moving! I purchased a membership to my local park district and now have access to a swimming pool, gym and on-demand fitness classes. I also borrowed the P90X system from a friend. While I am certainly far from being able to complete the program in its entirety, I really enjoy using some of the DVDs in this collection to guide workouts at home when I have trouble getting to the gym. My goal is to spend at least 20-30 minutes a day, 5-7 times a week doing some sort of physical activity.

In addition to paying attention to the foods I’m eating and how much I’m moving, it’s crucial to have motivation and a good support system. My family has been amazing in this journey so far. My husband, younger brother and toddler son have taken to the changes in our eating habits with minimal resistance. My mom has been awesome at encouraging me to stick to eating healthy. In fact, she has even joined in on the journey with me! It has been fun seeing the whole family become a bit more active, too. All the boys have been to the gym at least once or twice this week, including our little guy.

After family and friends, the media is a wonderful resource for finding motivation and inspiration. Blogs, such as The Healthy Diaries and Thrive Style, are awesome places to learn great tips, spark your creativity, ask some questions, share your experience and/or just connect with similar minded people. And while it may seem like media is all about sex and violence these days, it is in fact still possible to find some positive messages out there, too. One such movie I’m watching on Netflix this week is called Hungry for Change and it has really inspired me to continue following the healthy eating path I’m on. I am also utilizing some nutritional knowledge acquired from watching Dr. Oz on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

I know these are only baby steps and I have a very long way to go, but I am feeling good that this week, I at least got started. It’s my life, and I am making things happen.

 

Determining where and how to start this project has been quite a challenge itself. I decided to begin with what I felt I had the most control over, my body. As the first week progressed into the second, I realized that I am not going to be able to isolate different areas of my life anymore. The idea of ‘holistic’ healing is that I am taking my whole being – body, mind and spirit – into consideration. Any change I make in one area of my life is going to affect me in other areas as well. If I am truly going to heal, I need to learn how to accept and acknowledge who I am on all levels, at all times. 

Junk Food Relapse

My healthy challenge has been… well, just that – a challenge. That darn junk food has an overwhelming attraction that lures me in every time. Chocolate, my arch-nemesis, has been the worst villain. Instead of throwing in the towel and letting the enemy win, I decided to fight back with weapons of my own.

First, I headed to the nearest supply store: the local supermarket. In the produce section, I stocked up on fruits and salad fixings (my favorite way to eat vegetables, I think). I stopped at the dairy case for eggs, cheese and milk, grabbed some chocolate Fiber One bars to satiate my cravings, bought some fresh pork, poultry and steak, and finished with a stop in the organic aisle for ground flax seed.

Now that my arsenal is full, on to today’s mission: preparing for battle. Of course, this means prepping the foods as much as I can to make for easy meal times during the week. Yesterday I started by hard-boiling a dozen eggs to use for deviled eggs or just for when I need a quick protein boost. Next, on to those awesome looking BBQ Sweet Potato Chips I talked about a few days ago. All of the ingredients are out on my counter, ready for magic to happen! As the chips are baking, I intend on washing and slicing the fruit for fruit salad and the veggies for garden salads, as well as dicing the cheese blocks into cubes so they are easy to grab-and-go. Finally, the ground flax seed will provide some much needed Omega-3’s, fiber and antioxidants to my diet.

So take that, Junk Food Relapse!

In other health updates, Spring-like weather in the Midwest has allowed me to take a couple of walks with my little one this past week. I haven’t been keeping up with my yoga/meditation/stretching as much as I would like to, as finding alone time to do this has been difficult. This is something I will work on this week, as I think these are beneficial both in the short and long term (i.e. during labor and delivery).

Little by little; one day at a time. Slow is steady and steady is fast.