I took this photo just before setting off for my first real walk in probably two years. This week I’ve made the decision to get back on the health and wellness wagon. If you’re in my reader group, you probably saw that I had some surprising and unwelcome news at the doctor’s office on Monday. It scared me a little. Before I go on about that, let me give you some background.
I’ve been overweight to some degree as far back as I can remember. I was a chubby kid. A plump teenager. A fat adult. I’ve had poor eating habits for all that time. That was partly due to ignorance and partly due to food insecurity (limited access to affordable, nutritious foods.) When you live beneath the poverty line you become accustomed to eating mainly processed, pre-packaged foods because that’s what you can afford. Fresh food is expensive in comparison, so pasta, bread, rice, and other cheap, processed foods become staples.
Even with poor eating habits, I’ve always been fairly active. I’m no athlete by any means, but I enjoy walking around town, hiking the many trails in my area, and kayaking on the two rivers I live between. I also became obsessed with pilates for a stint. But you can’t out-exercise poor food choices.
In July of 2016, I left my desk job at the local weight loss center (of all places) to strike out on my own as a self-employed psychic medium and spiritual life coach (the writing came later.) At the time, business was booming, but as with many things in life, it became unpredictable. It eventually dropped off to the point where it was no longer a viable option for my primary income. I was too embarrassed to go back to the clinic- my previous position had already been filled and just the idea of applying for another position bruised my ego so badly, I refused to give in, even if it was the most practical choice. That was about the time I started writing. Partly because I’d always been a storyteller but also because I needed to find some way of earning extra cash and the job market in my small town is fairly limited to the health care organization I’d just left and the multiple fast food joints around town. Not a lot of options for someone with an MBA. (Yes, ‘you’re overqualified’ is a thing I’ve actually heard from prospective employers before.)
And that was when I got lazy. My anxiety about whether or not I could pay bills from month to month knocked me off the wellness wagon. I went from hiking 6 to 10 miles per week and living a ketogenic lifestyle to barely getting out of bed and gorging myself on any and all junk food I could find. What weight I had lost- which, in truth was not a significant amount in the grand scheme of things- piled back on. And then some. In addition to that, my muscle mass deteriorated greatly. Because of my hiking habit, I had the type of muscle mass athletes strive for- it just happened to be hidden under a layer of fat. But as I sat here in my bed day after day, stuffing my face and generally not giving a fuck if I ballooned up to 6000 pounds, my muscles weakened to the point that I couldn’t walk around Walmart for more than ten minutes without something hurting. My knees, my thighs, my back. I’d get winded. I felt pathetic, and I’ve never admitted that before now because I am a stubborn son of a bitch, and I refused to admit that I’d fallen so far.
Fast forward to now. Despite my life-long obesity, I’d never struggled with high blood pressure. High cholesterol, on occasion, but that was always quickly corrected with simple dietary changes. I’ve been considered pre-diabetic for a while now, and since diabetes runs on both sides of my family, I wasn’t surprised by it. But, hypertension was never a concern. Until now.
On Monday, the LPN took my vitals and then looked at me and said, “Let’s try that again.” My blood pressure was unusually elevated, which was strange to me for two reasons. 1) I had just had it checked in the Employee Health department the week before and it was normal. 2) It had never been elevated before AND I felt fine. The nurse checked it again thinking it was a fluke. Not only was it not a fluke, the second reading was higher (likely due to my anxiety at that point.) My PCP and I talked about a short term game plan, and I told her I had been thinking about getting back into the keto lifestyle, so this was just one more thing nudging me in that direction.
So, here I am. I’m back to monitoring my macros, which I don’t mind. Truth be told, the best I’ve ever felt, both physically and emotionally was when I was following a keto diet, so I’m actually looking forward to this. I’m also making a commitment to being more physically active. Considering how sedentary I’ve been lately, ‘more physically active’ wouldn’t take much! So, I went for that walk today. Granted, I only made it 1/3 of a mile before every muscle from my feet to my lower back protested. Loudly. It’s not the 3 to 5 miles I used to do, but it’s a start and that distance can only increase from here.
If you’re struggling with your health and wellness, don’t be afraid to make changes, no matter how small. Even the smallest changes can make the biggest difference.