The past week has been good. No, I mean really good! I feel like I’ve been given a kick-start after weeks of dragging myself through each day.
It was last week, Wednesday when I began to realize that something had to change. I felt a headache coming on that day. It grew in intensity throughout the day. My headaches always come up the back of my neck. I took some Tylenol a few times, but the headache just got worse. I paid a visit to the chiropractor that evening. Usually, an adjustment makes me feel good, but that evening there was no relief. I went to the gym and tried to run. That was pointless. I finally went to bed and slept until the next morning. That is what it took to shake the headache. The next day I realized that I have felt sluggish for too long and suffered headaches too often lately. But it was more than that. My mood was in the tank and had been for weeks on end. I didn’t even realize how bad I was getting. Being sulky and sluggish was my new norm. The winter always has a slightly depressing impact on me, but this was bad. I needed to do something different.
I used to be very diligent about making balanced meals for the family. Fast food was a rarity. Things started going downhill when I started working outside the home. And it got worse when I went to work full time on this ten-hour a day schedule. There are too many days when we are just scrounging around for anything to fill our stomachs. We eat fast food way too often. My kids often don’t even eat breakfast. Over the past few years, I’ve given up on trying to maintain a balanced diet at all. After the last headache, I knew I had to try harder. I knew better than to get too ambitious. I’ll never be a truly healthy eater. But I realized (again) that I had to make smarter food choices. Enough with the cheese popcorn dinners when I’m home alone. Enough sneaking a Diet Coke when the work day is dragging. I went to the grocery store the day after the headache and bought fruit. Lots of it. I bought bottled fruit smoothies and yogurt and frozen fruits to make home-made smoothies. I bought veggies and whole grain bread and ingredients for balanced meals. Of course, I didn’t want to throw the kids into sugar withdrawals. I bought one box of Hostess cupcakes and one box of Twinkies for them.
I almost always bring my lunch to work, but now instead of a frozen meal, I’m bringing fresh salads and yogurt or leftovers from dinner the night before. I’m snacking on fruit or cheese and crackers instead of chocolate.
I thought the kids would balk at the lack of sugar and fat in our food supply, but what I quickly found out is that if I chopped up fresh veggies and offer some dill dip, they’ll eat that instead of Cheetos. If I slice an apple, they’ll eat it. They won’t eat one whole, but they’ll eat slices. And a home-made yogurt smoothie is almost as good as a bowl of ice cream!
Dinner was another story. I leave the house for work shortly after 6:00 a.m. and don’t return until 5:30, except for Thursdays when I’m off. The kids are often gone to work or volleyball practice even before I get home. I solved the dilemma of how to make sure they had a hot meal when I wasn’t even home by making good use of the crock pot as often as possible. We may not be able to eat together, but I can still make my kids a hot meal. I can put some meat in the crock pot before I leave, then just call home later and ask someone to make potatoes or bread and a vegetable. It’s not ideal, but better than fast food, pizza … or cheese popcorn. When I’m not using the crock pot, I shoot for a one-dish meal or something that can be prepared ahead of time.
And then there was the issue of exercise. I run every week, but I had no schedule to speak of. I’d go two days in a row, then it would be four (or more) days before I found my way back to the gym. It’s so hard to stay on track. Life gets in the way. But I decided to try really hard not to go more than two days between gym visits. I’ve been there four out of the last seven days.
Within the past week, I’ve noticed a major difference in the way I felt, both physically and emotionally. I woke up last Saturday and already felt so full of energy and had a noticeably positive attitude. It made me realize the truly negative impact my bad habits can have on my well-being. There have been many times in the past I’ve decided to make healthier choices, but this is the first time I’ve seen direct and positive results. I think I stand half a chance of sticking with it this time.
And besides, as it turns out, my family actually likes my cooking! Go figure!