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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