Just recently I wrote a post about my new realization about how closely linked my mental health is to my daily exercise and nutrition. It’s something I should have recognized years ago, but for whatever reason I didn’t. Perhaps I was too caught up in my efforts to lose weight simply to look better and to fit some kind of ideal that I thought my body should be. But after dealing with feelings of fatigue, exhaustion, lack of motivation, and mild depression for some time now, I finally made the link. What I eat and how much (or how little) exercise I get, truly matters.
I put this new information to the test immediately. I started out slowly – cutting gradually back on the amount of sugar I consumed, going for a brief walk, and ensuring I went outside for at least 20 minutes each day. Within just a few days, I felt the positive effects. I was still tired after a day’s work, but I wasn’t completely exhausted. In fact, I had enough energy to be more productive at home in the evenings and didn’t actually feel really tired until bedtime instead of my typical 4 p.m. crash.
That was two weeks ago. Last week, I started to let things slip. It started when we headed out of town for my son’s hockey tournament. For convenience’s sake, we ate at fast-food restaurants several times (burgers and fries mostly). We stayed at my parents’ place which is packed full of every treat and goody you can imagine at this time of year! On top of that, Mom graciously hosted a Christmas party, complete with all my favourite appetizers. After a weekend of indulgences and eating “crap”, I was determined to get back on track with my new-found habits on Monday. But when Monday rolled around, I had no energy. I dragged myself through the day at work, over-ate at the potluck lunch, and when I got home, collapsed with exhaustion. I’m too tired from the crazy weekend, I told myself, I’ll workout tomorrow.
Tuesday came and all of Monday’s leftovers were pulled out of the fridge at work. Without thinking twice, I ate another huge plate of mostly unhealthy foods. Then I had a huge piece of chocolate cake for dessert. I dragged myself through Tuesday and collapsed with exhaustion when I got home. I skipped yoga at the gym, although I did attend my Weight Watchers meeting (how I dragged myself out of the house, I am not sure). When I got home, I put on my pyjamas and promised I’d work out the next day. Later that evening, feeling agitated and overwhelmed, I got into a fight with my teenaged daughter and cried myself to sleep.
Then came Wednesday. It was another hard day at work. Granted, it’s the week before Christmas and I teach ten-year-olds, but the reason it was so difficult, was because I simply had no energy. Sure, it’s safe to say that most teachers feel this way at this time of year (the typical pre-Christmas Break burn-out), but I knew that all the crap I had been eating and my lack of workouts was contributing more to my sluggishness than anything else. For the third day in a row, I immediately changed into pyjamas when I got home and buried myself under blankets on the couch.
Normally, I would have sat there wallowing in self-pity and asking myself over and over again, why am I so tired? Why don’t I have any energy? Why do I feel like crap? But when you know better, you do better and know I know that the reason I feel like this is because of my poor nutrition and lack of exercise.
Although I just wanted to hibernate for the third night in a row, I knew it would only lead to making me feel worse the next day. So I reached out to my friends in Weight Watchers on our online support group. I confessed how terrible I was feeling and within minutes, one of my friends was urging me to get out for a walk. I decided right then and there that that’s what I had to do. I didn’t even hesitate to think about it (for fear that I would too easily find an excuse not to go). I closed my iPad, got dressed in my outdoor gear, hooked my dog to his leash, and headed out.
I was so proud of myself for actually getting up and doing it that my motivation and energy immediately increased. In fact, it jolted me awake so dramatically that rather than take my normal, short route, I set out on a much longer route. Fifty minutes later (and lots of trudging through deep snow), I had completed my walk and my motivation to take care of myself was back. This morning, on my coffee break when I usually indulge in sweets, I headed out for another walk and took in the mild weather and gorgeous sunshine peaking through the clouds.
It’s still absolutely incredible to me how simple it is to change our emotions and mental state into positive ones, yet so many people like me get sucked so easily into the dark hole of lethargy, fatigue, and depression. It’s all the more reason to remember just how critical proper nutrition and daily exercise really is. I am so happy that I have finally make this crucial realization!