This month was completely upended before it even began. I initially wanted to add additional activity to the end of my day. Nothing intense necessarily, or even super long. I just didn’t like the habit I’d gotten into of coming home and zoning out in my comfy chair, completely depleted of energy for my entire evening. The hope was that adding even 15 minutes of activity would start to help build up my energy levels a bit.
To do this, I wanted to make sure I was fueling myself properly, and this is where everything went sideways. First- a little background. Nutrition is the one thing that I have remained passionate about over the past 15 years. It’s the thing I pursue in my free time. I read the books, research the science, attend webinars and watch docuseries. I have, bit by bit, worked at reaching a point that is optimal for me which is how I arrived at the point I am currently. For the most part, it’s pretty dialed in, but of course not perfect. It’s also become incredibly automatic. The automaticity keeps my life simple as I juggle all the things on my plate; however, I ended up setting and forgetting without stopping to reevaluate as things change in my life to make sure that what I’m doing is still working for me. What I found was incredibly interesting and so many things immediately made sense… I wasn’t eating enough. It’s not that I wasn’t eating enough to fuel extra activity- I wasn’t eating enough for pure biological functioning, and I have no idea how that happened. It’s embarrassing to say that it just didn’t occur to me. I can always see it in other people but felt that I had it all figured out. I forgot that it’s not a “one and done” kind of thing.
Obviously, a whole host of things then made sense: my lack of energy, my inability to lose any weight, and my random bouts of wanting to binge on foods I wouldn’t normally crave, to name a few. I hadn’t felt hungry, which is why it escaped me, but anyone who studies nutrition knows- I wouldn’t be hungry if my body was just hanging in subsistence-mode. I had enough to function (sort of) and maintain the status quo but nothing extra. So, week one I instituted 2nd breakfast and immediately noticed a difference in my energy levels. That happened to be an extra-long week as I was preparing for an event that required time every day after work those first three days and ended with a 13-hour workday on the fourth day. Typically, long days like that wipe me out, and I’d end up taking a day off soon after, but this time I found I didn’t need to. Not only was I able to work, but I also wasn’t completely worthless. So, week 1 and 2nd breakfast for the win.
Going into week 2, I wanted to make sure the extra calories I was consuming weren’t in the form of junk because I didn’t want to undo all of the hard work I’ve put in getting to this point. I’ll be honest, that was harder because when our bodies need calories- it craves quick, easy calories. In other words, all it wants is junk. I had my meals on point prior to this outside of the calorie problem. Everything I was eating was incredibly nutritious and the six meals a day thing is not realistic for me with teaching. Not to mention it’s a pain in the ass for prepping and packing all that. Needing to add in extra calories was a challenge in terms of prep and planning. Nothing unmanageable, but it’s just more to figure out, ya know? Did I succeed at this? Nope. To be quite frank, I quit caring and decided to just eat. I didn’t tell myself no for pretty much anything. On one hand it was liberating. On another, not so much.
It felt weird, and still kind of does feel weird if you want the truth, to be so hungry. I had to come to terms with some psychological stuff this brought up including a lot of fear and shame. Old stuff I thought I had dealt with but realized my “dealing” was in the form of food control. I do not in any way have an eating disorder, but it turns out that I do have disordered eating like so many people do. I had to work through that. I had to be ok with gaining a few pounds while I worked through the process without shaming myself. I know enough to trust the knowledge that once I gave myself the freedom to just be, the quicker my body would stabilize and level out at something more sustainable, and I would again start craving the healthier foods I’m accustomed to. And I am getting there. I can see it happening, and it’s coming in a much more sustainable and energetic package. That’s a win-win.
What I also found was that I just wasn’t drinking enough water which is nuts. Ever since my stroke, I have been so good about staying hydrated, damn near fanatical about it. But when I started paying attention, I noticed that my water intake this semester hasn’t been as good as it used to be. With my workouts getting tougher and my schedule getting crazier, that’s the worst thing to happen. So that became another focus for this month. I still don’t want to have to think about these things all the time, which is the purpose of automaticity; however, it’s clear that I do have to reevaluate them from time to time to make sure everything is still working for me and adding to my life. I hadn’t done that in a long time. Funny how a simple task ends up opening a giant can of worms. I don’t mind, though. I know I’m better for all of it, and I should have done it a long time ago.
So yes, this challenge started as just wanting to add more activity, but it became more about spending a month listening to my body. I did move more and got out more- all of that, but as I ate more my metabolism kicked in more, and it really did take on a different focus- properly fueling my body. Now as the month comes to an end, I feel that I’m in a much better place with all of it and moving forward in a much healthier way. I’m feeling incredibly grateful that I’m able to take the time to do this and that I continue to grow and learn.