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 Eat Your Way to Wellness
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                               Self Care in Difficult Times by LeAnne Thomas

"Life is difficult" is the opening statement in M. Scott Peck's book, The Road Less Traveled. That statement is one of those truths that we know intellectually, but in the back of our mind we still believe that life shouldn't be so hard. Throughout the last 20 years of my life, I have experienced more drama, pain, and curveballs than I even care to remember. Sometimes, it seemed as if the very minute I struggled back up to my feet, something or someone would come along and knock my legs right out from under me again. For everyone, life is guaranteed to bring with it setbacks, losses, and times of despair and confusion. We are faced with difficult choices, and decisions. And, as has been the case with me, sometimes life-altering, and earth shattering, "Lifetime Movie for Women" sagas that seemingly had no end.

Some of the bad things that happened in my life came from bad choices that I made, or wrong actions for which I paid a price. And sometimes, I was clearly victimized or wronged, and I was forced to deal with the consequences of someone else's bad behavior. Then, of course, there are just those things that happen in life, illness, death, natural disaster, etc... that everyone has to deal with throughout their lives. Unfortunately, problems and difficulties don't just come at us one at a time. We often have to deal with one thing after another until we feel like we are buffeted by winds on every side and cannot catch a break. And yet, we perpetually hope that some day "things will get better." And we wait for that day, and wait, even though we know that by its very nature, "life is difficult."

It is tempting and easy to put off doing the things you need to do for yourself during these particularly difficult times. Self-care is often at the bottom of the list when we are in crisis mode. For those who struggle with our weight, the first things that seem to go are our exercise and eating plans. We tell ourselves that once we get through this rough patch, we'll really get focused, and get back on track. Unfortunately, there is always a rough patch around the next corner.

I'm a firm believer that when it comes to losing significant amounts of weight, there are times to push hard and times to coast along and maintain awhile. All too often, during those times when weight loss isn't our main focus, we take the "all or nothing" approach and give ourselves a hall pass from eating properly and exercising. Then, when life smoothes out (and yes it does, even if just temporarily) we have a bigger hole to dig out of and must deal with the psychological fall-out of going so far off course.

One of the best aspects of following a low-carb way of life, for me, is that I don't have to think about food when life gets bumpy. I know what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, and I don't have to struggle with the added difficulty of cravings, blood sugar dives, and physiological aspects that undermine my willpower. Although, emotionally, it is tempting to seek comfort in food — those temptations seem easier to manage while low-carbing because the physical cravings are gone. During difficult times, it is all the more important to be especially careful with your eating because you don't want to make resisting emotional eating even more difficult.

In addition, exercise is such an important stress reliever. We know this, and yet, in times of stress, we stop with our routines. Stress is kind of like calories. If you don't work it out, it accumulates and stores in your body and all kinds of bad things happen. Again, during difficult times, exercise is even MORE important. It is as if we wait for life to be going great and to have boatloads of "extra" time, before we will give any time to exercise. Now that I've actually exercised consistently for over three years now, I am convinced that daily exercise (even if its just walking) strengthens more than just our bodies. The mental discipline it takes to get out there day by day and the satisfaction that comes from doing something good for yourself gives you the mental discipline and focus to deal more effectively with your problems. Very often, solutions to my problems come to me WHILE I'm exercising.

I'm going through a relatively smooth period in my life at the moment. Most days I wake up and I feel thankful, and blessed. It is those difficult periods that make times like this even sweeter for me. Spring perpetually follows winter, and hope is renewed. One of the mental tricks that I use to get myself outside and walking during the cold, dark winter mornings is to tell myself that when spring comes, I will enjoy my morning walk all the more for having done it all winter long. Instead of launching a big exercise program, when the weather gets better, I'm already doing it. I'm stronger and fitter than I was when winter set in. While the rest of the world is digging out from under 10-15 pounds of Winter blubber, I'm a lot further down the road.

If you had asked me three years ago, if I could have faced all that I've faced and manage to lose over 100 pounds, I wouldn't have put money on it. However, I did lose the weight and gained so much more. I wholeheartedly believe that I was able to be successful this time, as opposed to all the other failures, because I made self-care my anchor. In other words, I made the conscious decision that no matter what, I would eat well and exercise — not just as a way of losing weight, but as a way to care for my physical and emotional well being. In fact, I believe I've faced down problems that would have previously knocked me right off my feet, because I was stronger physically and mentally.

There is a zen saying that comes to mind, "before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water." I take this to mean that we must take care of our most basic needs first. It's not sexy, it's not exciting, its just routine maintenance. It is doing what needs to be done for you, every day, without fail. Keeping the fires burning, making sure there's water for our needs. When we view our exercise and nutritional needs as the wood and water of our lives, then we don't chuck them when the sea billows start rolling.

We all go through periods where life is uncertain, chaotic, and we cannot see an end to whatever challenge is facing us. In those times, it is often necessary to simplify life a bit and let some things go by the wayside so we can focus more energy on dealing with the issues at hand. But, there is never any problem that can be improved by failing to take care of yourself and your needs. Neglecting proper nutrition and exercise (and proper rest as well) will likely make matters worse. During times when your resolve fails and you just don't want to think about self care, ask yourself how you wish to emerge from this period. Do you want to be stronger and healthier, or do you want to be digging yourself out of a deeper hole? Self-care is a day by day process. We don't have the luxury of neglecting ourselves for very long until we create more and even greater problems.

Let self-care be the thread that connects the good times and the bad times. I know from experience that this simple attitude adjustment has helped to make the bad times a little less bad and the good times all the more sweet.
                                                                             LeAnne

Copyright © October 2005  LeAnne Thomas and Low Carb Luxury



       

 

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