As soon as I started actually paying attention to what I was putting into my body, it didn’t take long for me to start making other healthy adjustments to my lifestyle.
Before I began this weight loss journey, I never realized all of the not-so-healthy – and even potentially dangerous – things that I was doing simply because I just didn’t seem to care about myself. It’s sad to say, but it really is true. I spent all of my time trying to convince myself that I didn’t have a weight problem, and meanwhile I felt trapped inside this massive body that I didn’t want…so why should I take any responsibility for the way I was treating it?
Though my Eastern European heritage blessed me with fair skin that begins to burn after just 10 or 15 minutes in the sun, I never before cared about using sunscreen. As a teenager I became obsessed with trying to develop even just the faintest hint of a tan (because, after all, a tan helps your body appear toned and leaner), so I would drench myself in tanning oil that had an SPF of only 8 or 15 and lay beside the pool for hours. Other times, I refused to put anything on my skin at all because I didn’t want to hinder the sun’s effects on my “tan.”
Needless to say, I would spend the next three days furiously rubbing aloe vera all over my badly-burned body, with the hope that when my skin was finally finished peeling, it would reveal a slightly darker shade underneath.
Now, I add additional sunscreen to my moisturizer (which already has SPF 15) every morning, and when I’m headed to the pool or beach, I drench myself in SPF 45. If I’m going for a run, I slather sunscreen all over my face, arms, neck, and ears. Even if I’m going to be spending even just 5 or 10 minutes outdoors to take out the dog or walk around the corner to mail a letter, I put sunscreen on. I’m so passionate about taking care of my body from the inside that now it seems crazy not to do the same for my skin on the outside.
Aside from my much-improved skin care regimen, I also make a point to take vitamins every day. I eat well, drink tons of water, and exercise daily, and I think that has to a lot to do with why I’m rarely (*knock on wood*) sick. I figure taking a daily multi-vitamin only helps to boost my immunity against illness, and provides my body with nutrients that I may not get from my food every day. Before, I would never even consider taking a vitamin. What was the point?
On the other hand, lately I’ve developed a strict aversion to taking pills of any kind. I’ve become somewhat prone to seasonal migraines, so if it gets very severe to the point where it interferes with my ability to work, I might take an ibuprofen. And, of course, if I’m genuinely ill – like the rare sinus infection I’m recovering from now – I will take what the doctor prescribes and do whatever I can to recover. But other than that, I try to avoid polluting my body or becoming reliant on outside agents to keep me functioning at my best. Admittedly, my obsession with washing my hands and incessant Purell usage probably helps, too.
Before I started losing weight, I had not been to a doctor in over 5 years. Unfortunately, I’m not exaggerating. I didn’t want to have to step on a scale and be lectured about how I needed to lose weight, and I didn’t want to have to hear that my blood pressure was up or my cholesterol was too high. I simply self-medicated with over-the-counter drugs, or chose to suffer through any medical issue that arose, like my daily bouts of severe acid reflux. I’m no longer afraid of going to a doctor when something’s wrong, and I try to at least get a physical and routine blood test every year.
It probably sounds silly, but I even take better care of my teeth now. I make a point to floss every single day, and see a dentist every 6 months. I never bothered before I started losing weight.
If I wasn’t already sounding like a huge dork (hey, I’ll admit it)…I’m also adamant about getting at least 7 hours of sleep at night. It certainly takes its toll on my social life, especially since my shift at the YMCA starts at 5:15 in the morning and I have to wake up at 4:30 to get ready, but I truly don’t feel well the next day if I only get 5 or 6 hours of sleep. I wake up with bags under my eyes, I’m irritable all day, and I barely have enough energy to finish even a leisurely bike ride or 30 minutes on the treadmill.
I’ve never been much of a drinker, but I actually used to feel guilty about not being as anxious to go bar hopping every weekend as the rest of my friends. I felt like there was something wrong with me because I didn’t get a big thrill from alcohol. I enjoy a glass or two of wine on Friday nights with dinner, and if I do go out with friends I might have a rum and diet coke, but other than that, I really don’t drink. Not only are there an insane amount of empty calories in alcoholic beverages – and they lower my inhibitions enough to make me want to dive into nachos and chicken wings – but drinking takes a cumulative toll on the body that I’m not sure my fellow twenty-somethings realize. It’s now my choice to drink in strict moderation, if at all. It’s for the same reason that I’ve never once tried smoking a cigarette, and I’ve never tried drugs of any kind. Water remains my drink of choice!
I may be missing out on some quintessential experiences that you (should) only experience when you’re young, but now I feel good about my decisions because it’s all part a newfound commitment to taking care of myself. For the first time in my life, I’m taking responsibility for my behaviors, and doing the best I can to take care of my body.
I’m no longer miserable, I no longer feel worthless and inadequate as a human being, and it’s an incredible feeling to actually want to be healthy and experience everything that life has to offer.
Now, the only thing I must do is get a grip on my coffee and Splenda addiction. Eh, nobody’s perfect. 🙂