What a difference a year makes!
Picture #1: A year ago. Hospitalized due to RA stress issues, that I thought I had a handle on, until I didn’t.
Picture #2: Taken June 15, 2019 – My beloved Christopher and me – after his birthday dinner at Copper Mug in Loudonville, Ohio.
Picture #3: Taken June 22, 2019 – Me – taken by a Sandusky Register photojournalist at Sandusky PRIDE
Indeed, what a difference a year makes, but holy moley – what a difference a week makes, right?
Why the drastic change between pictures? (Besides good lighting and different photographers) One reason is mindful eating. In the spirit of transparency, notice pictures 2 and 3 are a week apart. Notice the difference? Aesthetically/physically, it is astounding! Today, I was able to pinpoint the other difference. (No, not my hair!) Gluten and alcohol, intake. Not done mindlessly, mind you. I was aware of my intake and aware of the consequences. I will explain below. Bare with me.
I was told I have the RA factor in 2009. Fortunately, I have never had full-blown RA symptoms, but I have RA flares. The flares happen every so often, usually with little to no warning. Several years ago, my family doctor and my rheumatologist suggested going gluten free, or lowering my gluten intake. Doing so would reduce joint flare up and likely stave off RA symptoms, in general. And it has. I have an intolerance to gluten. For me, gluten throws off the natural flora levels in my gut, causing a flare in symptoms. When you add alcohol, depending on the type and quantity of alcohol, you can actually cause bad flora to ferment and flourish.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information and Health Line Magazine – “red wine actually increased the abundance of bacteria known to promote gut health and decreased the number of harmful gut bacteria.” You can also not drink and/or add probiotics to your diet, under the supervision of your physician, which is what I do, daily.
A year ago, even with my fantastic stress reduction skills and under the watchful eyes of my doctor and specialists, RA flares were out of control due to not being able to manage my stress to the best of my abilities. I got mad at the illness and we both took it out on me. I spent the night in the hospital to ensure all was well. Once I was released, I took myself to task on improving my health and taking back control. I quit my job as a writer for a publishing company two days later. Since then, I have been able to eliminate the stress and live the life I deserve. My health drastically improved. I also meditate daily, do yoga and just work to reduce the stress I can control and let go of what I cannot. So far, it has served me well.
A week ago, we celebrated my husband’s birthday. I indulged in desserts, a glass of wine, (I cannot do more than 2 glasses of wine, anymore) and other foods, with semi-reckless abandon. I was mindful as I made my choices. I chose to indulge against my better interest. One glass of wine, bread before dinner, a sensible entree and cheesecake for dessert, on June 15th… when I was already having an “RA Day” – left me very puffy. (And the rain and humidity did my hair no favors!) Let me say, I have said more than once to my husband, “That picture of us is not my favorite.” -because my inner critic and truth teller knows I do not look healthy!
I not only try to watch what I take in, but how much. Even I do not get it right every time. Sometimes my body will throw me a curve ball, just when I think I am on top of my game. Such is the case on June 15th. Even a little bread, mixed with white wine, was less than beneficial to my system. Notice “try to?” When you try to do something, you are not really doing anything. To try automatically sets you up to accept that failure is a possibility. Today, I learned I owe it to myself to do better than to try. That does not mean I must go without eating or drinking what I love. It just means I must be more mindful and even more moderate in consumption. So perhaps I switch to red wine, rather than white…
Many can enjoy life’s indulgences in moderation. Many cannot. It is your responsibility to know and understand your boundaries and limits. Nothing wrong with living at your level and working from there. Stop comparing yourselves to how others perform or respond. You’re not them. They are not you. If you slip, catch yourself before you fall. You choose by your choices which direction you spiral. Continue to spiral down until there is only darkness and no light or continue to spiral up, enlightened every day, reaching and achieving.
Mindful eating is the practice of being aware of what you put into your body and the awareness on how your body responds. Mindful eating is why I only enjoy a half of a glass of wine, rather than the entire bottle. It is why I only had a few small slices of bread. But seeing the profound changes, physically, makes me MORE MINDFUL and thus, preparing me to take even better care of my body. These daily reminders, sometimes hourly reminders are so profound. My husband and I like food and we like dessert. We now challenge ourselves to find tasty, gluten-free desserts, healthy meals with portions right for us. Which is what Christopher did this weekend when challenged to make not only healthy doughnuts, but healthy strawberry rhubarb pie – and he succeeded, hence the cover picture. It was delicious! Using stevia, honey or agave, in place of sugar, has taken some getting used to. But I remind myself that I once did not like the taste of tomatoes as a child and can now eat them, so this too shall pass. The taste was just different, but not noticeably.
Know this: while there is a lot of vulnerability in me disclosing my truths in this blog post, I make zero excuses. I own my missteps. Acknowledgment and awareness keep my momentum moving. Vulnerability allows me to grow. No one grows in their comfort zone. Step up and stand up! Own your choices and then keep moving forward, so you do not fall backwards into the rut. I am human and work at being the best human I can be, daily. And humans make mistakes. I have no regrets, though. Every misstep is an opportunity to grow and learn something about myself. Dwelling and wallowing in self-pity and excuses does nothing but send you spiraling downward.
It is so easy to get off track. It is easy to get back on track, staying on track takes work. Everything worthwhile usually does. So, as I work to walk my talk, mindful eating is always a part of my life plan. Even I slip, from time to time, and I KNOW exactly what I am doing, when I do it. I refrain from beating myself up. I live, learn and move on. We all have slips. Some are costly. Others just make us look bad. So, as I vow to make better choices today, I vow to increase that throughout my day. No pressure! Because today is all we have. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.
So be your best you, today. Perhaps the momentum will carry you throughout the day, into tomorrow and for a lifetime.
Yours in wellness,