The Broken Record Files: Trying to Figure Out the Wellness of Me
[Content Note: Food Talk, Exercise Talk, Stress Management]
In January, I managed to start and keep up some great habits. Most weeks, I went to a morning yoga class four or five days a week. I was having an easier time with Whole30 eating and reaping more benefits. Basically, I felt great and enjoyed installing some more structure to my life.
Then I went to Disneyworld and was all out of whack by the time I got back. I haven’t been able to motivate myself to get out of bed for yoga. I haven’t been feeding myself properly during the day and am usually too lazy to put lunch together in the evening or any of that. I’ve been going out to lunch a lot and taking everyone out to dinner for food I want when I am stress eating. My non-savings account is negative, a thing I didn’t worry about at all in January.
I guess I figured that would happen. But I didn’t expect to have my entire new program rewritten to the old one! Sigh. Living the healthiest, happiest life for me takes a whole lot of effort! WHO KNEW?!?
Anyway, I’m still in analysis mode, trying to figure out the best way to proceed and commit. And I am finding new things all the time that I have to pay attention to on the road to feeling well and energized every day.
I have started by identifying what about January I liked the most and how to best make those things permanent aspects of my life. I liked feeling awake in the morning, and sleepy at bed time. I liked all the stability I had going on, both emotionally and physically. I liked having money to save and to purchase things that were not food. I liked the general feeling of success I had, knowing that I was making kick-ass decisions for my own wellbeing. I liked that I was spending money on things that would last and added to hobbies I enjoyed. I was buying things I wanted to wear, or equipment for working out, or art supplies, or just silly toys that made me happy. I liked that I wasn’t just spending all of my money almost immediately.
In addition to all that emotional stuff, I have just not been feeling great. I assumed that it was because of sugar and bread, and I’m sure they don’t help. But I think this may be more due to very specific foods and activities.
I still got headaches during my Whole30. I’ve had frequent headaches throughout my life and ibuprofen is one of my BFFs. I assumed that having no processed sugar spikes would clear that right up, but I was still taking Advil every day. Granted, the headaches were less severe than I often get them, but they were still there. I assumed this was due to subpar caloric intake, since when you’re eating whole foods, most of which are vegetables and fruit, it’s easy to not actually get enough calories. I upped my fat consumption a bit which helped, but it didn’t solve the problem.
When we were in Disneyworld, most days I took a few doses of Advil. We went through Advil like it was going out of style between my nagging headaches and the onset of Jessie’s cold. I assumed that my aches were due to the sudden change in diet, full days of walking around a lot, and all that stuff that comes along with vacation. Again, I’m sure that all contributed. But when I got back to work, I started having really bad headaches every day!
At first, I thought that it was sugar withdrawal, since I cut back a lot when we got home. But it was so persistent and relatively severe, that I started to think there must be something else going on.
Well, first, there’s always stress and I do my best to plow through, triumphantly bellowing “KEEP MOVING FORWARD” to remind myself that stress is temporary and can be handled in my privileged life. So same ‘ol, same ‘ol.
So, since stress isn’t new to me, there must be some other factors to consider.
Look, the scientific method is awesome, OK? I know you are riveted. I mean, if you've read this far, you must care at least a little bit?
Today, I don’t have a headache at all. Thursday and Friday were nasty and Monday, I almost went home because it was so bad. What gives? Like any red-blooded American, I went to the internet and also consulted with Amber who knows a ridiculous amount about this kind of thing.
Long story short, I have a few things to look into:
Dehydration – This is an ongoing struggle for me, so an uptick in water consumption is definitely needed. Amber has been adding fresh fruit to her glasses of water because it seemingly helps her body actually absorb it. Adding fruit means adding electrolytes and your body is all “hell yeah, I’m thirsty”, so the theory goes. I haven’t tried that yet, but I am intrigued.
Exercise – On Thursday and Friday of last week, I got it together and went to yoga classes in the evening and in both cases, the yoga really helped with my almost ibuprofen-resistant headaches. I tried out Yin yoga on Thursday night and from a stress relief standpoint, it’s great. You hold sitting stretches for five minutes at a time and they are really easy and you can use pillows. It doesn’t do much for strength, but it’s definitely a lovely way to chill the heck out. Vinyasa is more effective for pain relief and has a lot more physical benefits, I think. It’s aerobic and strengthening. So I like having both of them in my practice. On Friday, I was in a miserable mood and an hour of yoga really helped and my head was fine. Then this morning, I shoveled a lot of snow for, like, 40 minutes. I never really consider these physically intensive things we have to do as grownups as exercise because they fall into the category of “chore” before “physical exertion”. But after several days of not getting any focused physical activity, I’m thinking that it really helped with my head.
“Weird” Food Things – The common denominator, other than lack of consistent exercise was that I went back to having some Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar and nuts as the bulk of my breakfast. Sounds innocent enough, right? Well, according to the internet, both cheese (especially significantly aged cheese) and nuts (especially almonds) are possible migraine triggers. My guess at the moment is that eating them both together could have given my body a double whammy (I also ate cashew butter and almond butter on the bad days) and make my head scream. I’m also guessing that nuts might be bigger culprit here since I didn’t eat any dairy when I was doing the Whole30 and still suffered pain. Apparently, another big possible migraine trigger is red wine (SAY IT AIN’T SO…just kidding, I have gotten tons of red wine headaches.)
So, given these hypotheses, tomorrow morning I am going to drag myself out of bed, hell or high water, to go to yoga in the morning and then, because I consider my body a science experiment apparently, I’m going to eat some almonds and see what happens. If nothing, then I will eat some cheese and see what I can see. And hopefully I will end this (possibly painful) experiment knowing more about the chemistry of me.
Going back to my original thoughts, seeing that I know that I feel better when I’m eating certain things and none at all of others, why is it so darn hard to only eat those things? Well, that all comes down to emotional eating!
I’ve never thought of myself as an emotional eater, especially because I don’t overeat easily. When I was a kid, I definitely ate out of boredom (this is one of the reasons I got into baking. The process of baking was fun and something to do, and I got a product from it). I don’t do that very much anymore. But I definitely use food as a coping mechanism and as a reward and that’s why my money disappears into the pockets of restaurateurs everywhere. So, no, I don’t overeat, but I definitely overspend!
When I’m celebrating, I always think of food I want first and want to take everyone out to get some. The same exact thing happens (much more often) when I’m feeling emotionally crappy and/or stressed. I want comfort food and I want everyone to come with me to eat it. This is a really unhelpful habit, as you might imagine. When I drink wine as a response to stress, I hardly ever just drink one glass. I usually have two or more without really thinking about it. It’s not really because I’m looking to get drunk (red wine instantly calms me within the first couple of sips). I think I just have some subconscious response that says “What a crappy day. More wine. DO IT”.
I’ve been looking into ways to break this habit by finding better ways to soothe stress or reward myself. There are a lot of options. The key is to figure out how to make those things my go-to things, thus relegating wine drinking for when I just feel like having a tasty glass of wine here and there (like when Wes and I go wine tasting, which I really enjoy). As for comfort food, well, that will be relegated to the sometimes also and if I commit to Whole30 eating for a more extended period of time, it is likely that I will find foods that serve a calming purpose that are also beneficial in other ways.
What are these options, then?
A hot shower or bath, having fuzzy PJs to get into, and trying new and delicious teas.
Evening yoga! This actually feels more treat-like than the morning sessions because I go after a day of work, where stress levels likely increase. It serves as both a stress reliever and a reward because I know I’m doing something good for myself.
Online Shopping! Shopping at malls or other brick and mortar stores isn’t usually all that fun for me. When I go to a mall, it’s because I have something very specific that I need and I plan to go right for it. Big stores tend to tire me out quickly and bring on stress. But browsing dresses on Modcloth or putzing around on Amazon for things I’d like to have is a fun little activity and, since I save so much money not eating out because I’m eating properly, sometimes I can buy one of those things I want.
Art time! Making the conscious decision to set time aside for me to sit at my neato drawing desk and work on a new piece is great. To make it even more special, I often get some kind of aromatherapy candle to have burning while I work and other things to make it cozy.
Television and movies with the Fam and hanging out with my silly dogs!
Hanging out in Amber’s Room! She has a silly cat who amuses me greatly. Also snuggles. Also an array of hilarious objects she has collected over time. Also cuddles.
Crossword puzzles and Candy Crush and other silly games.
Cooking delicious food and knowing that it’s as good for me as it is delicious.
Playing my guitar! I am happy to put this back on the list. It’s been off it for too long.
Personal dance parties in the kitchen or wherever good times (and music) are had.
So there are ten things I can do that don’t require booze or non-homemade food to soothe and celebrate (and really, there’s only tea drinking and making home cooked meals on there that even have anything at all to do with food). So now, I need to just commit to the goal and start the process of rewiring my brain and body to go for those things first.
Does this mean I’m giving up anything for good? Not really. I mean, if I find out specific things make me sick, then yeah, those will generally be avoided…even if it’s cheese. At the very least, they will be consumed occasionally knowing that they may bring on the pain. But I need to learn moderation better in my “old” age. No, 34 is not old but it’s old enough to notice more about how your body works and the better my habits are now, the better they will always be. I think that figuring how to replace booze and shitty food with fruity water and food that makes me feel like Popeye are good general goals. Having some stuff (in moderation) at a party is great. Indulging when I really want to indulge is great. But the norm, the vast majority of my time should be spent not indulging in things that do me good only for a moment or five.
Sounds reasonable, yes? Yes!