Motivating Myself for Health

This past Friday was a Red Letter Day for me. Short story: I had a breast MRI and I do not have breast cancer! Long story: I am taking steps to sustain my health.

In mid-December I decided to look ahead at what changes I wanted to make for the New Year. I was also inspired to refresh my health goals because I’m going to be working as a health coach this year at a new clinic called Northwest Memory Care in Ashland, Oregon. Dr. Deborah Gordon and our team are committed to helping patients make changes based on the Bredesen Protocol, to prevent or reverse Alzheimer’s. Exciting stuff!

I found myself making an informal survey of diets—Ketonic, Paleo, Blue Zones, Heart Healthy, etc. and was amazed at the amount of information I found. And of course, everyone swears by whatever diet they have done. It is so human to want to find One Answer!

One diet I read about in a book my doctor gave me, written by Dr. Esselstyn from the Cleveland Heart Clinic, said to eat a plant-based diet but to avoid avocados—while another doctor I respect and admire strongly advocated for avocados as being a source of good fat. When I asked my fitness trainer at the YMCA about whether or not I should eat avocados he said, with great passion and a chuckle: “It’s not about the avocado!”

What I am finding is that health (and disease) is an exploration, one of the greatest we, as humans, face. We often take our bodies for granted until they don’t work, at least I know I do. With my alcoholic, anorexic Mom, who died of breast cancer, and my obese, diabetic Dad, who died of heart disease,  my family history pretty much looks like a mine-field. How do I navigate my way through?

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 55 and died five years later, after thinking she was cancer-free for most of that time. The cancer hit her hard when it came back (in her liver) and she was dead within six weeks. Nursing her was one of my greatest healing opportunities.

My grandmother and my Great Aunt also died of breast cancer in their early 60s. My mother had no sisters, nor do I. That puts me, at the current moment, “on the front lines.” Here I am, vulnerable and strong at the same time. I have no idea what is going to happen.

So having mammograms and now the two breast MRIs, is reassuring for me. At this point in my life, I do not have breast cancer. Relief is too small a word for what I feel.

In talking yesterday with the fitness trainer, I realize that I am making progress being healthy. Progress is just the balm I need to motivate myself to keep eating healthy and moving my body with love and attention.

I have steadily been losing weight for the past month as I’ve switched to a mostly plant-based diet and am concentrating on “eating to 80% full.” I have also been working out five to six days a week and doing a multitude of small, easy stretches throughout the day to loosen up my quads and neck. And I do very odd looking “nerve glides” that I got from a PT to keep my thumbs from hurting from the beginning stages of arthritis.

What I’m learning overall is to continue to educate myself and to pick a path that makes sense to me and that I can sustain, and stick to it. This was what my doctor recommended I do, and I consider this advice golden. He didn’t tell me what to do, he guided me and listened to me, gently and with an open mind. I admit, it was tempting to want the One True Answer. Instead I’m finding that one size doesn’t fit all. It is taking time and reflection to find My Answer.

I remember reading that the word “gym” appears more on Facebook in the first three weeks of January than at any other time of year. And then, by January 21st, the use of the word pretty much drops off . . . people fall back into old habits and inertia creeps back in as we forget our Bigger Yes. New Year’s Resolutions get stale quickly and it is difficult to stay motivated.

After talking with my fitness trainer yesterday though, I realize I don’t just want to lose weight for a few months. I’ve done that already (several times) and regained it. I want to make a lifestyle changes that support my health for the long term. Sustainable Health!

For now, I am getting the results I want:

Increased flexibility
Slow weight loss
The habit of moving my body regularly
Reaching out to others for support
Awareness as I explore what works for my body and lifestyle

As a life coach who is now going to coach others on how to support their own health, I want to honor and encourage each person to learn what works best for them and to keep their motivation. By listening deeply and offering support, I hope to help others do what supports and sustains their health. I also like to walk my talk so I’m happy to have taken the leap and to see the numbers on the scale agree with my efforts.

By making conscious choices, offering acceptance to myself and others, being committed and open-minded, as well as keeping my sense of humor, I hope to continue on my chosen path to health.

Here’s to a New Year of Health (even after January 21st)!

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