As 2017 prepares to lay itself down to rest, I’m not fighting the natural inclination to reflect on it. As always, so much living gets compressed into every spin around the sun. For now I’ll just talk about one move I made this year because of its surprising ripple effects: I decided to work with a holistic nutritionist for three months.
For some people, this would be no big deal at all. My husband, for instance, routinely works with specialists of all kinds (personal trainers, personal Pilates instructors, etc.) to enhance his physical wellness. I had to do nothing more than suggest working with the nutritionist for him to agree to do it with me. By contrast, it took me 10 months after friends recommended the program to finally commit it. It really was outside my comfort zone. Apart from the doctors I visit on the rare occasions when I’m sick, I don’t seek help to be a healthier version of myself.
Part of this reluctance is that I felt like I shouldn’t need the help. My friends had given me the rough outline of Larlkyn’s three month program, so I had most of the information I needed to improve my eating habits on my own. But 10 months is a good period to notice whether or not any changes were actually happening, and they weren’t. If anything, I was getting more tired, and reaching more often for the junk foods that briefly comforted me before making me even more tired.
So I shelled out the cash and finally got started. I reviewed the carefully printed charts (Larlkyn was an engineer in a previous life) on insulin and blood sugar, and photographed my meals to send to him. I learned to love tea blended with healthy fats in the morning, and enjoy (or grudgingly accept) reduced carbs in the evening. I ate no processed sugar and little of other sugars. For almost three months, I texted with Larlkyn more than my husband.
The outcome? I reached my primary goal, which was to have better energy throughout the day. When I come home from work, I am not too tired to play and engage with the kids. I also lowered my body fat a bit and lost a few pounds. The best, most amazing outcome is that the brain fog I had gotten accustomed to has vanished. As in, it’s totally gone. This feels like a minor miracle at work, and I can’t express how much I love the mental clarity.
As with so many things in life, my husband and I didn’t (and perhaps couldn’t) fully comprehend what we were signing up for. There were huge benefits, but it was not all angels and light. We missed being able to eat freely with friends (and outside the house, for that matter, although we did save a bunch of money). Upon reducing carbs too much, I fell into a depressive funk (when I told Larlkyn, he immediately changed gears – turns out there is evidence that very low carb intake may lead to depression in some women; frustratingly most of the nutrititional research is on men). My husband so loved his new energy and lighter self (losing 35 pounds in under 3 months) that his fierce adherence to a radical form of the new diet meant that as a family we regularly suffered his hangry spells.
But we are now on the other side of our three months working with Larlkyn, and life has stabilized. My approach to food has relaxed some, but I maintain most core principles because I really do feel better with them. There are incidents of relapse (a full day of ketchup ripple chips and little else, for instance) but I find myself veering back to what feels good soon enough. My husband and I have been taught how to monitor and measure our movement, and continue to experiment with what works.
We have also emerged from our months with Larlkyn with much more than an education on nutrition. Health and wellness in its true form is a holistic affair. He explained that on the hierarchy of health, sleep comes first, then food, then exercise – in our society, most of us have this reversed. I’m not just eating better, but I’m sleeping more than I have in forever. And with my higher energy levels, I have been practicing more yoga and biking more (even into December – a big first for me).
Larlkyn also referred me to helpful books and podcasts, all geared towards creating strong habits. At one point, he also gave me a brilliant piece of advice, which was to operate at 50% capacity. If I operate at 80% or 100% capacity, as most of us do, I will quickly be tipped into overwhelm when some unforeseen variable arises. The thing is, this variable is only unforeseen in its particularly; its existence however is entirely predictable. So operating at 50% builds in space and resilience for that variable when it arises.
There is no perfection, ever, no matter how much Facebook pretends otherwise. My husband and I have not “arrived” anywhere, in some finished form. But something has changed for the better, and we both feel it. I’m really glad we did this together, so we can experience the change together. Our kids did not participate actively in what we were doing, but as they witnessed us clean up our eating, they naturally ate better themselves (everyone is so delighted to say goodbye to most blood sugar crashes). In some ways, it’s been a family affair.
Sometimes it’s a victory to just lift one’s eyes off the path at which we’re grinding away to see where we are and then choose where we’re going. More important than any specific food-related modification we’ve adopted is gaining some momentum to positive and chosen-by-us change. It’s kind of exciting to look forward and wonder what else we might further bend to our liking, how we might live and share our days better than before. I find myself facing 2018 with genuine curiosity and optimism, which must translate, I think, into a sound endorsement of 2017.
How was your 2017?