Trials and Triumphs

In a follow-up to the post I wrote yesterday about my new-found passion for health and wellness, I wanted to share with you something I have been experiencing for the last week or so.

Two weeks ago, I decided to fully jump back on the “eating right and exercising” bandwagon (yep, story of my life!) I am kind of following the 21 Day Fix program, although I am not using the coloured containers.  I am using the food lists as guides and trying to reduce the amount of wheat, dairy, sugar, unhealthy fats, and processed foods I am eating.  I am doing the 21 Day Fix workouts although the program suggests you work out every day, and I have admittedly skipped a day here or there.

The first week was fantastic.  My motivation was high, I was eager to learn, and I jumped in with both feet.  I did meal prep, journalled all my meals, and even tried to make the best choices when I was out of town for a 3-day work conference.  But here we are at the end of Week 2 and wow, it’s been tough.

Like so many others in today’s society, I have a major sugar addiction. If it’s sweet, I love it.  If it’s white and carb-y, I love it.  For months, I subsisted on a diet of pizza, bagels, pasta, and fries.  Yum.  But the entire time I was devouring those delicious foods, I knew that they were not only wreaking havoc on my physical body, but on my health overall.

It’s been brought to my attention lately just how badly unhealthy foods can affect us.  I have started learning and doing some research about holistic nutrition and when I heard that unhealthy foods can also cause mental health problems, mood swings, and skin problems (just a few examples), it was like a light bulb clicked.

For months, I struggled with depression, lack of motivation, extreme fatigue, and just overall feeling terrible.  My colitis has flared up leaving my stomach bloated and gassy and causing frequent trips to the bathroom.  I am so fed up.  Now I am finally starting to understand that my food choices directly affect everything related to my health – whether it be physical health, mental health, emotional health, or spiritual health.

So all the more reason, to get educated and to try to make some serious changes in my life.  As previously mentioned the first week was pretty easy.  I was highly motivated and eager to get started.  But this past week, has been a little bit like a drug addict coming off drugs.

First of all, the cravings I’ve had for carbs and sugar have been mad crazy, especially in the evening.  When the day’s work is done, and I finally sit down to relax, the thought of anything carb-y consumes me – PB & J sandwiches…. big ol’ bag of chips…. pudding cups…. ice cream…. let’s be honest, anything.

On top of that, I have been experiencing crazy mood swing, most of which have made me irritable, resentful, sad, and just downright, miserable.  My brain has been screaming at me, angry with me for not feeding it the junk I normally feed it.  I get mad and ask myself why this has to be so hard?  Maybe I should just give up?  I could go grab a bowl of sugary cereal right now.  Screw it!  I think.  I feel down in the dumps, frustrated, and sad.  A couple of times this weekend I have burst into tears for no apparent reason except that I feel like total and utter crap.  Thank goodness, my sweet and supportive husband has been by my side to talk me through it and to encourage me along.  Because of him, and because of the inkling of determination that still exists inside of me, I am thrilled to say I’ve mostly overcome these tough battles.

The good news is that I am learning.  I know recognize that these physical cravings and mood swings (oh and the raging headache I had last night) are my brain’s way of trying to trick me into feeding it the crap it so desperately wants.  And my logic tells me that if I just keep fighting and pushing past it, eventually I will overcome this hurdle and come out stronger on the other side.

So now I am focussed on one day at a time.  I am going to continue to educate myself about what fuels and energizes my body from the inside out, and what turns it into a sugar-addicted, miserable monster.  I know it won’t be easy, but at least my determination is still high.

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Eyes Wide Open: Discovering My Personal Passion

Recently at a professional book club meeting, the topic of passion came up. One of the questions was what are you passionate about personally?  The question kind of took me by surprise because I had always related passion to work.  When you are growing up and planning your future, you always hear the advice “Find something you are passionate about and then figure out how to make a job out of it.”  For me, teaching is definitely one of my passions.  And just recently I’ve recognized some things that have driven my level of passion with teaching sky-high (another blog post on that coming soon!) But when I was asked “What are you passionate about in your personal life?” I was really taken aback – what am I passionate about?

Of course, the most natural of answers came to me right away – I’m passionate about my family, about spending time with loved ones, and making sure they are taken care of.  But is that really a passion?  Sure, I care immensely about my family, but what interests do I have that excite me, inspire me, light a fire within me on a daily basis?

My colleague suggested my love for the Toronto Blue Jays.  I am definitely a huge fan.  I watch games religiously on television, attend as many games as I can throughout the summer, and proudly wear my Jays gear whenever given the opportunity.  I can name all the players, know what position they play, and know the basic stats.  But I don’t live for the Toronto Blue Jays.  It’s an interest but it doesn’t create a burning desire inside of me.  Watching the Jays doesn’t inspire me, it’s more just like a really enjoyable passtime.

So what is my passion?  I started to think about things I am good at and enjoy doing.  I know, I thought, my passion is writing!  It’s true I’ve had many fantasies about making a living as a writer – spending my days in a quiet room, alone, sipping flavoured coffee, and lighting my keyboard on fire as thoughts and ideas come flowing out of me and onto the screen.  I do feel I express myself best in writing. I do get great satisfaction from writing blog posts and putting my ideas into words.  But is it my passion?

I started thinking of a passion as that one thing you can’t stop thinking about.  It permeates your life every single day.  It makes you feel excited, inspired, thoughtful… but sometimes overwhelmed, confused, and scared.  Then it hit me!   I think I know what my passion is…..

Health and Wellness!

For years, I have been interested in health and wellness.  For the most part, I have been interested in health as it relates to weight-loss.  The story of my adult life is that I am consistently trying to lose weight or maintain a weight loss.  I am constantly seeking out the right plan to follow that will help me to look and feel great.  But more recently, the idea of health and wellness has evolves into something different.  Yes, I still want (and need) to lose weight.  But more importantly, I have recently become more interested in simply making myself healthy.

This has stemmed predominantly from my diagnosis a few years ago with ulcerative colitis.  I consider myself lucky in the fact that my colitis is fairly mild compared to some others.  Most of my symptoms include bloating, a lot of foul-smelling gas, indigestion, diarrhea and constipation.  At it’s worst, I’ve also experience severe abdominal pain that has landed me in the emergency room.  I’ve also experienced severe urgency that has disrupted my workdays and interfered with social activities.

What I didn’t realize until recently though, was that some of the other symptoms I’ve been having could be directly related to the inflammation in my gut.  I’ve had excema, skin problems, achy joints, headaches, extreme fatigue, and mood swings.  These things are all symptoms of inflammation (mind blown!)

My most latest motivation to get back on the “healthy eating/exercise bandwagon” has been not only to lose weight, but to heal my gut and to feel better overall.  I am tired of being tired.  I am fed up with the mood swings (irritability, crankiness, anger, sadness).  I want to feel energized, positive, and happy – every day, all of the time!

This has inspired me to start a kind of “new” health journey.  In order not to overwhelm myself (which can happen so easily), I have decided to focus on nutrition and making better food choices, not only for weight loss, but also as a means to heal my body from the inside out.  I am slowly starting to learn about whole foods, natural ingredients, eliminating sugar, processed foods, wheat, and dairy, eating more plant-based foods, and feeding my body so that I can feel energetic, vibrant, and strong rather than bloated, tired, and irritable!

I have chosen nutrition because there are SO many areas of health and wellness that if I jump into too much of it, I will totally overwhelm myself and may give up altogether.  But that’s not to say I am not dabbling and looking into other areas of health and wellness (mindfulness, meditation, exercise, to name a few).  I am so enthusiastic about this topic that it’s actually kind of hard to rein myself in but I do have to remember that it’s a HUGE learning process.  Lord knows, I have a LOT to learn.  But the most important part is, I am not only open and willing to educating myself, I am so excited to do it!  I have this strong natural urge, this passion burning inside of me that wants to know all I can about how to live the best life I can!

Whether it’s articles, videos, books, websites, social media pages, internet sources, or people… if it has to do with health and wellness I am interested!   Here are just some of the topics that have grabbed my attention, that I’ve experimented with, researched, read about, or thought about so you can get the idea of how interested I really am!

Nutrition – gluten-free, elimination diets, anti-dairy, the wheat belly diet, holistic approaches, Weight Watchers, eliminating sugar, processed foods, 21 Day Fix (Beachbody), Shakeology, supplements, anti-inflammatory foods, recipes, plant-based foods, whole foods, Paleo diet…..

Fitness – going to the gym, walking, running, yoga, 21 Day Fix, home workouts, Tai Chi, pilates, weight lifting, heavy lifting, CrossFit, Pure Barre, ballet, dance, hiking, paddling, skiing, baseball, soccer….

Spiritual/Mental Wellness – mental health illnesses/conditions, mindfulness, mindful vs. Mind full, coping with stress, anxiety, depression, yoga, meditation, self-care routines, prayer, journaling, grounding techniques, therapy/counselling…

Wellness – natural self-care products, natural cleaning products, environmental factors, essential oils, sleep, balance, self-care, time spent in nature, self-help books, self improvement, positive thinking, mindset

No matter what it is whenever one of these topics comes up, I find myself wanting to know more.  I ask questions, I think, I reflect, I analyze, I read, I consider… and most of all,  I get so excited and so emotional!  If that doesn’t describe a person passion, I am not sure what does!