By Ox Drover
I slipped into an unhealthy lifestyle after my husband died six years ago. Slowly I let things deteriorate until I had gained a significant amount of weight, about 10 pounds a year. I started to feel bad and wasn’t really sure just why, but in the back of my mind I knew I had ignored the “red flags” of that needle on my scale creeping up. I had been in “denial” with, “Oh, it’s just a couple of pounds.”
Many times I have realized that my life has been “out of whack” just a little bit at a time, that I have been doing unhealthy things that didn’t immediately impact my life dramatically, but just a “little bit at a time.” Like a bucket filling up one drop at a time, eventually it gets full, if we don’t stop the dripping.
With my weight and my health problems beginning to become apparent, I realized I couldn’t continue to do the unhealthy things I had been doing and continue to enjoy good health. I started to have a little swelling in my feet, and I had always eaten a great deal of salt. It couldn’t be the salt, could it? I was discussing this (really, arguing with) my young physician and I told her, “Well, I’ve always eaten a large amount of salt and it never hurt me before!”
She looked at me and laughed and said, “Well, you’ve never been this old before!” I laughed too, but she was right! I had to quit being in denial that all the little unhealthy things I was doing in my food and exercise lifestyle were not adversely effecting my life and my health. I needed to alter my lifestyle, not just my “diet.”
I realize that I have done other unhealthy things as well. I have allowed others within my circle of family and friends to contribute to this unhealthy way of doing things. It isn’t just a matter of “going on a diet” and shedding a few pounds and then going back to the way things were. It isn’t just a matter of telling a person to stop treating me the way they were, and then go back to the way things were. It is a matter of lifestyle changes that are consistent and long lasting.
Stop and think
With the matter of my nutritional intake and my exercise regimen, I had to actually stop and think every time I went to the kitchen. I had to make plans in advance of how I would fix a meal and had to shop with more forethought, rather than just “grabbing” something out of the pantry and throwing it on the stove.
How many calories, how much sodium, did I have the ingredients I needed? It wasn’t quite as easy any more to put a meal on the table. It required me to actually meal plan days in advance, to shop for those items, to rearrange my budget to take these increased costs for “low sodium” products into account instead of cooking the way I had and following the habits I had for forty years.
I had to do the same thing with my relationships, taking into account the behavior of others in my life—what I would tolerate and what I wouldn’t. What would my boundaries be? Just like I don’t want to take all the taste and enjoyment out of my food in order to “eat healthy,” I don’t want to take all the enjoyment and pleasure out of my relationships either, but at the same time, I can’t tolerate a lot of substances that are toxic to my health, or relationships that are toxic to my soul.
I have to come to a balance of enjoyment and toleration. There are things I have to eat now that are not my favorites, but I know they are good for me, so I eat them. There are foods that I really enjoy but I know are not good for me at all, so I must entirely avoid them. There are foods that I can enjoy in moderation, or in small amounts. The same applies to the relationships and in people in my life.
My son and I have a friend we dearly love, but who is married to a woman neither of us can stand. While we want to maintain a friendship with him, and visit with him, we know that we must have some association with his wife as well. I sort of look at it like eating my favorite biscuits and gravy. I can have small amounts once in a while, but can’t take very much or very often.
In the past when I had weight problems, I would change my eating habits temporarily, but as soon as I lost a few pounds, I went back to eating in an unhealthy manner. I think I have done the same thing when dealing with people in my life who were unhealthy or toxic. I would get them (or people like them) out of my life for a while, sort of like a “crash diet,” but then when I felt better, go back to the old dysfunctional and unhealthy lifestyle.
Now, in my emotional and relationship life, I have made a commitment to a LIFESTYLE CHANGE, just as I have in my dietary and nutritional status. I’m not just on a “short term diet.” I am making healthy choices for life. I am working on living a balanced life, a healthy life, and not “slipping” off of a short term change, back into the old unhealthy habits.