Recently my hubby and I had our annual wellness checks. For the first time in several years, I wasn’t dreading mine. Why? Because I had already seen the improvement in my health through my bloodwork results. I’ve been ‘practicing what I preach’ this past year, and it’s been working.
You know, I share a lot of health and wellness information here on the blog, but sometimes it’s good to know how people actually put the information to use. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a little of my personal journey. I hope it will encourage you in yours.
If you’ve been following the blog for very long, you probably know I live with fibromyalgia. That’s kind of where this story begins….
Don’t worry — I’m not going to go through all that. BUT by 2019, my fibromyalgia pain had gotten so bad that I was extremely sedentary. Moving hurt, but sitting so much came with its own set of problems. Then came 2020, and suddenly, the little bit of movement I was getting by going out and doing things came to a standstill. I became more and more deconditioned, and like many people during the pandemic, I began to gain weight.
The Turning Point
One day as I was at the doctor for my Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment, she made the comment that my hip pain was the kind of pain they saw in long-haul truckers because they sit so much. I knew right then that if I wanted my pain to get better I had to start moving.
I started working to increase my daily movement, then I started walking — very short distances. As time went on, I was able to build on that, and by last summer, we were routinely walking a mile or so several times a week.
By the time I went for my wellness visit last year, my pain was hugely improved and my bloodwork was better, but my cholesterol was still higher than ideal. And although my glucose was normal, my A1c was knocking at the door of prediabetes. That was a SERIOUS wake-up call. I knew it was time to start making some more health changes.
Small Changes, Big Difference
I’ve often written about the importance of making small changes rather than trying to change everything all at once – they can take longer for you to get visible results, but they allow you to make changes you can actually stick with.
So that’s where I started. My first step to making more changes was to sit down and really assess where I was and where I wanted to be. I also had to explore my resistance around changing my diet, because I just didn’t want to feel deprived as I was trying to lose weight. If I did, I wouldn’t be able to stick with it. I wrestled with this for months, but journalling through all this resistance finally allowed me to see how not changing wasn’t really an option and showed me how I could eat healthfully and still have the foods I really love.
That’s where those small changes were really useful. As we talked about in Do Small Changes Really Make a Difference, I decided to conduct a little experiment on myself. I only made two small changes — I started eating my veggies first, and I stopped having sugar in my coffee after my first cup in the morning. I’ve been able to stick with those two small changes, and now that those two habits are established, I’ve been able to add more small habits to them.
Now that my healthy eating habits were actually habits, I knew I needed to get more consistent with my exercise. Exercise is a vital component of keeping blood sugar stable, and I wasn’t getting a whole lot of walking in during the colder months. I had slowly been working up to exercising at least 3 times a week, but I was still having trouble being consistent. I really needed to make it a habit.
I decided to use BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits framework to develop my exercise habit.
I started with 5 minutes of exercise each weekday. This could consist of some type of stretching, cardiovascular or strength-training exercise, or yoga. It didn’t really matter what type of exercise I did as long as I exercised for 5 minutes. Of course, I could add more time (and often did), but I did at least five minutes for each of those five days.
This past month, I increased the time to 10 minutes each weekday, and I’ll just continue to build on slowly. Again, I don’t limit myself to 10 minutes; that’s just the minimum time I aim toward for each weekday. On days when I’m dealing with fibromyalgia symptoms, I stick with some light stretching or go to the pool. It’s important to work with your body; you want to go forward, not backward.
I’m still not 100% consistent – with fibromyalgia, there are days when any type of exercise is too much. And of course, there are those days when ‘things just happen’ that keep me from exercising, but having that ‘exercise appointment’ on my schedule helps me at least think about it. Then I can make a conscious decision to skip it if I need to, and just get back to it the next day.
The Results So Far
With these changes, my total cholesterol went down 23 points, my LDL (bad) cholesterol went down 15 points, and my glucose decreased by 8 points, compared to last year. I’m also 10 pounds lighter. These changes didn’t happen quickly, and I’m not where I want to be yet, but they’ve helped me move much closer to being the healthiest ‘me’ I can be.
As we talked about in How NOT to Feel Worse When Starting to Exercise, starting out small as I did “isn’t glamorous and it doesn’t give us fast results. What it does give us is a lifestyle change that we can stick with.” Now that I’ve established healthy behaviors I can stick with, I can continue to build my health (even at this age!) and be as healthy as possible for me.
If you’re struggling with making some health and wellness changes, I hope that me sharing my journey will encourage you. If you’re having success with living a healthy lifestyle, I’d love for you to share what’s working for you in the comments!