Category: health

After a Run of Seven Months

All winter, I kept dodging getting sick. Tomas has been sick like four times, Denisa’s gotten sick. DC and MC have been sick multiple times as well. Meanwhile, my last round of sick was at the end of October. Each time someone in the house would get sick, I’d gear up, getting ready to come down with it as well. That’s just been par for the course for me for so long.

But I kept taking my multivitamins, kept exercising, and kept to my sleep schedule, and each time, I didn’t get sick. (This all goes back to a news article I read a while ago about how seldom NFL players get sick. They said it might have something to do with how active they were. So I upped my activity level back then with specific goal of being less sick.)

It’s definitely worked. I’m in the best shape of my life. (Which, mind you, doesn’t mean a whole lot . . .)

Yet all good things must come to an end, and Monday, I had the dreaded tickle in the back of my throat. I kept exercising, took more vitamins, but Tuesday, it was a full sore throat, and then I had a conference I forced myself to go to yesterday, and . . .

I’m definitely sick. Blarg. Hopefully I’ll be on the mend soon, but for now, I’m staying put and watching movies.

Newsflash: Overeating is a Bad Idea

You would think after years of living and tons of experience with eating and overeating, I would learn my lesson eventually. But you would think wrong. I had quite the weekend, with a Groundhog soiree on Friday followed by a Super Bowl party yesterday. (That game was incredible, by the way. So much fun to watch, and I had a great time viewing it with some die hard Patriots fans. I like both teams, but I was definitely leaning hard for the Eagles, simply because I like to spread the love around some, and Philly really *really* needed that win.)

The unifying factor between both parties was mass consumption of food.

Now that I generally eat more healthily than I used to, lots of things in life are better. I get sick less, I sleep better, I have more energy, and my self esteem is better. However, I’m continually discovering one serious side effect: I can’t eat large amounts of junk food and not feel awful later on. Gone are the days when I could just go to town on an array of desserts, eating all the brownies, and feeling fine afterward.

Of course, I wonder if it’s more that I always felt yucky afterward, but it was harder to tell, because I didn’t feel as good to begin with. I don’t know. What I do know is that if you sit me to watch a 4 hour football game and place a variety of cookies, cake pops, chips, salsa, queso, bread, hummus, and brownies in close reach, I will end up eating about three metric tons of food. This despite all my dieting practice, and knowing from experience that I won’t feel all that great afterward.

So why do I do it? Some of it is old habits. The way I used to celebrate was by eating a lot of food. So any party I go to doesn’t feel like a real party if all I do is graze on a bit of treats here and there. To really have a great time, I’m supposed to eat and eat. Plus, it tastes good. And just as I’ll stay up later than I ought to, despite knowing how awful I’ll feel in the morning, I’ll eat and eat and eat, even though I know I’ll feel sick to my stomach.

Sigh. Getting old is the pits. Back in the day, I could eat an entire large pizza all by myself and not even bat an eye. Who came up with the idea of being responsible and mature? I’ve got another party on Friday (it’s the Olympics!). Will I learn my lesson by then, or will I decide it’s okay to live it up one more time?

The sad thing is I think the safe money would be on me living it up again.

How do the rest of you manage to moderate at parties?

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Being Busy is Relative: My Trip to the ER

Tuesday evening, I started feeling under the weather. Stomach ache. I looked at my calendar for the rest of the week and sort of mentally shrugged. There were some important things on at work I had to attend to, so I had no time to be sick. I’d just have to barrel through it.

Wednesday morning, I woke up feeling worse. Stomach pain was tighter, but off to work I went. Throughout the day, things only went downhill. I started examining those important things I had to get done the rest of the week. Suddenly they didn’t seem so life or death anymore.

Staying home began to look more and more like the way to go.

I came home early Wednesday, and I was in bed since. The important things I had to do were done by other people. But the pain just wouldn’t go away, and I went to the doctor. Which led to a trip to the emergency room. I got to experience a whole bunch of firsts: my first IV. My first CAT scan. My first time having to be in one of those drafty hospital gowns. What a lucky guy.

Four hours later, I’m back home. It’s not appendicitis or cancer or anything scary. Nothing that needs surgery or treatment. Just “acute mesenteric lymphadenitis,” which basically means the lymph nodes in my abdomen are swollen and so are doing their best appendicitis impersonation. Way to go, body.

Still, compared to the alternatives, I’ll take this any day of the week. Nothing that can be done for it other than pain medicine and the passage of time. It should get better in 5-7 days. Here’s hoping.

Anyway. I just found it interesting how quickly priorities can chance. Between Wednesday afternoon and this morning, I went from “I have too much stuff to do to be sick” to “I really hope I don’t have to be operated on later today.” I much prefer being busy to being in need of surgery.

I don’t need the latter, and it looks like for the next few days, at least, I won’t be the former.

Giving Multivitamins a Try

I continue to try to improve my health in ways that aren’t too hard. (How’s that for a goal?) Meaning I’m not exactly running marathons here or going to the gym. I’m eating less, reducing my sweets, jogging in place at lunch, lifting a few weights while I watch Netflix. I’m sneaking healthy stuff into my life to make it have as low of an impact as possible.

Why? Because so far this has been the only approach that seems to work with me. I’ve tried becoming a person who Goes to a Gym. In the process, I’ve discovered I’m actually one of the people who Goes to a Gym for a Week, and then gives up on the goal. It’s just too much to add it into my schedule. (Translation: I don’t value it enough to make time for it.) I’ve tried getting exercise equipment for home. I don’t use it. (I only seem to make time for exercise if it’s time I’m using to do something else anyway. Like watching Netflix.)

But I’ve been feeling healthier, and I think it’s helping me each day, so I continue to look for other ways I can do simple things to be a healthier me.

Next up? Multivitamins.

I’ve tried multivitamins in the past. (Maybe 10 years ago?) They didn’t seem to do much for me back then. I took them daily, and didn’t feel like I noticed much of a difference. (At the time, I felt rotten. I hoped they’d help with that. They didn’t, but I was also about 50 pounds overweight, had a horrible sleep schedule, never exercised, and ate brownies like they were the fifth food group. So I’m saying it might not have been the multivitamin’s fault.)

But the other day, I was reading a study that said getting enough vitamin D reduces colds and flus by 50% in people who were vitamin D deficient. It noted that most people get enough vitamin D through enriched milk and sunshine. Well, I don’t get a whole lot of sunshine. I’m a librarian author. Neither one of those activities does too well in the outdoors. So I’m pretty sure I’m not getting D’d up with sunshine. When it comes to milk, we get ours from a local farm. I don’t believe it’s fortified. So it wasn’t a huge stretch to think maybe I wasn’t getting enough vitamin D.

This made me think: might there be other vitamins I’m not getting enough of? Denisa often points out to me how limited my diet is. (I’m a creature of habit. I eat plain oatmeal with a few raisins and milk in the morning, a banana at 11, a peanut butter sandwich at noon, and something different for dinner each day. Not a whole ton of veggies, though I try to have some.) Again, it wouldn’t take a genius to see that I ought to be branching out. I’ve known that for quite some time, but old habits are hard to break.

So I decided I wouldn’t just take a vitamin D supplement. I’d hedge my bets and take a multivitamin. It was $6 for like 100 of the things. What could it hurt?

Two weeks in, I’m feeling pretty good about the decision. I take one each day after breakfast. I’ve felt like I’ve had more energy and been more alert each day. There’s been some sickness running through the family, and I haven’t caught it (yet). This is enough of a result for me to want to keep taking the multivitamin.

Could it be the placebo effect? Yup. But studies also indicate the placebo effect can work, even when you know what you’re taking is a placebo. Go figure.

For me, it breaks down to taking a pill each morning and spending about $20/year. Even if that only makes me feel 1% better than I feel without taking it, that seems  like a complete no brainer. (After all, by that math, I’d feel 100% better by spending just $2,000/year!) The only way I’d stop taking it is if it made me feel worse. No sign of that yet, so my lazy approach to a healthy lifestyle continues . . .

How to Feel Better, Sleep Better, and Think Better

Look. I know this is totally anecdotal evidence here. I’m a librarian and an author, not a doctor. But maybe this one anecdote can help other people, so that’s why I’m sharing it.

I used to go to the doctor. A lot. I was feeling crummy pretty much all of the time. Couldn’t sleep. Came down with just about every bug going around. And I was tired all of the time. Not in an “I like to complain about feeling tired and sick a lot” sort of a way, either. This was an “I feel bad enough that I’m going to go to see doctors to find out what’s wrong with me.” And I did. I was on different pills. I had heart tests done. Sleep tests. Saw multiple doctors.

Some of the things worked, but nothing for very long. They weren’t sure what was going wrong with me. I thought it might be chronic fatigue syndrome, but I really had no clue.

Fast forward a decade. How am I feeling now? Pretty good, really. I’ve gotten ten years older, of course, but I fall asleep easily almost every night. I get sick rarely. I’m fully awake during the days. I have plenty of energy. I’m also not on any medications. So what made the big difference?

I think it’s a combination of things. All of which were in my power to change. I just didn’t want to actually change them. Here’s a rundown:

  • I lost weight. At my peak, I was 240 pounds. I’m now around 190. 50 pounds is a lot of pounds.
  • I started a regular sleep schedule. I go to bed each night between 10 and 11. I get up each morning around 6. Sure, I vary from that every now and then, but almost never more than once or twice a week. I also stopped napping almost completely, no matter how tired I am.
  • I cut processed sugar out of my diet for the most part. I still eat it (especially at conferences), but my baseline level of sugar is a lot less than it used to be. (And probably still too high, particularly this week. But it was my birthday . . .)
  • I began to exercise regularly. Yes, it’s about as lame of an exercise as you can get (jogging in place while watching Netflix), but it’s something I can fit into my schedule easily, and I can do it every day.
  • I improved my diet. (Well, the credit for this mostly goes to Denisa. She cooks very healthy meals. It also goes to having enough money to buy healthier options at the grocery store.)

I can’t say that the reason I feel so much better now is 100% due to lifestyle changes. Maybe I was allergic to something in Utah? I have no idea. But I wish I would have done all of this sooner. Before I turned to doctors and pills, why didn’t I try doing the other things that are free, but harder to do?

I think some of it was because I wanted the fix to be easy. I wanted to continue living my life the way I had been living it, and I wanted someone to give me something that would enable that. We didn’t find anything, but if I’d stayed in Utah, I probably would have kept looking.

This isn’t to say that modern medicine isn’t worthwhile. I’m a firm believer in it. But I also think a healthy lifestyle (sleep, diet, exercise) should be the go-to first step for anyone who wants to improve their health. I know that sounds like one of the most obvious statements I’ve ever made, but it’s one thing to know something, and quite another to actually do it.

Living this way is harder than living the way I was before. It takes time and effort, and there are plenty of times I’d rather binge out on brownies or just not exercise one day. But it’s a price that’s totally worth what I get in return, and I’m happy to continue to pay it.

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