(broad)ject self #9: Self-Care When...You Have to Make a Big Change

I’ve flirted with major lifestyle changes, but I’d be lying if I said they weren’t more intention than execution. Usually I’d sign up for some sort of online program or challenge, start receiving the emails, and then fail and lose track within the first few days. I had lots of excuses: I didn’t have time for the workouts, I didn’t think David would buy into the eating program, the workouts were too hard/long, or the recipes were too easy/complicated/not tested properly. Most of the time the program or challenge was free, I’d optimistically file the emails for later use, and move on as before.

For a long time too, it didn’t really matter. My doctor was (and still is) happy with my health and weight. I was happy enough not to want to overexert myself. I believed that it was impossible to love food and cooking while restricting myself in any way. But as my parents get older and encounter various medical issues, some that you could ostensibly link to lifestyle and some you could not, I am becoming more fiercely protective of my health and mobility. My father’s first amputation (left leg below the knee) last October came at a time where my self-care mantra was “survival by any means necessary”. But by the time of the second amputation in May (right foot), I was getting to a better place. That fact that my father smoked for 35 years was a huge part of the circulation issues that caused his amputations, but his Type-2 diabetes was the root cause. So, in May, I started thinking more seriously about what choices I needed to be making.

Then life happened. Summer happened. Vacations happened. Barbeques, patios, Slurpees (only in Winnipeg), Venti Iced Chai Lattes, and late nights on the deck with wine and candles happened. It was a casual comment from my physiotherapist that got me on track. She said she’d started watching how much extra sugar she was eating and she lost 5 pounds in a few weeks. This got me checking the Starbucks website only to discover that my Venti Chai Lattes had 58g of sugar! The next thing I knew, I was making an appointment with a holistic nutritionist because I knew I needed help on how to navigate the kind of changes I wanted to make.

I met with her two weeks ago, food diary in hand, to talk about my lifestyle and what I was hoping to achieve. A week later, we met again to discuss the plan she had prepared for me. She took my food diary and all the weird intricacies of my schedule and home life and turned it into a plan that I could actually accomplish. Given those same intricacies, she said she’d be happy if I could stick to the plan 80% of the time, and depending on how that went would inform how we’d move forward. The plan doesn’t ban anything, but instead suggests I think of certain things as treats. These aren’t small changes though, because we’re trying to balance my blood sugar over the day as well as support my walking commute and anxiety. It’s day four and I’ve already achieved way more than I ever have in the past. Most importantly, when I have “cheated”, I’ve felt crappy as compared to how I’ve been feeling the rest of the day. Sometimes, It takes knowing what feeling good feels like to know what feeling bad feels like.

At its most basic, self-care only costs time. Drinking more water and getting enough sleep are free, wearing sunscreen and brushing your teeth don’t cost your wallet much at all. But all those things take time and effort, every single day. Leveling up your self-care can involve more dollar signs though. Health service professionals can be expensive, whether it’s physio, a nutritionist, a naturopath, or a massage. Changing the way you eat isn’t cheap either, says the woman who spend $15 today on chia seeds. Making new habits is the hardest thing of all, because that’s 100% up to you baby. You have to be willing to spend the time, effort, and money to make those changes happen and make them stick. Most challengingly for women, you have to take time, effort, and money away from other people in your life and funnel it towards yourself.

I don’t want to underplay this, folks. I willingly drank something called Turmeric Milk last night and ate a piece of 70% dark chocolate with it. I ate an apple with almond butter for a snack. I’ve been getting herbal tea instead of a latte from Starbucks every morning. This is a massive shift for me, but I so desperately want to retain my health and my limbs and my fertility that I’m ready to make those changes. This is the biggest lifestyle shift I’ve ever made and I’m willing to support myself however I need to get through it, possibly to the detriment of the support other people are accustomed to getting from me.

Danielle LaPorte in one of her conversation starters asks, “What have you been afraid to admit to yourself, because if you said it out lout it might mean that you’d have to make some big changes?” One month ago tomorrow, I finally admitted that I’m afraid to die in the knowledge that I willingly didn’t take care of myself because I like white flour and sugar too much. What are you afraid to admit? You know where to find me if you need to get it off your chest.

Self-caringly yours,

Sian