The End, part 1:: Stay Changed Always

Each year receives a name at its end—a word or phrase to hold its essence, a name to remember it by. So much has happened this 2010 that it’s hard to settle on a name…I’ve decided on something very general, though it really does gather all of the year into one firm hand:

The year of change

On Christmas day of 2009 I found a lump in my breast. It turned out to be nothing, however the full medical check-up I underwent at the start of 2010 disclosed that I was pre-diabetic (blood sugar levels not quite diabetic yet, but getting there,) had hypothyroidism, an unusually low blood pressure, and was overweight by 23 kilos. So I committed to making some big changes in my life:

I quit smoking. Initially I found ii-ne-kore’s diary of a quitter inspiring, but as she slowly slid off the wagon and gave up I turned to, and got real help, from QuitCoach.

I read dozens of books on pre-diabetes. The New Glucose Revolution and all the other titles in that series were the most helpful; I learned how to make better choices from among the foods and ingredients that I liked, instead of going on some sad, unrealistic diet of deprivation—like the truly hair-brained “Lemonade, Sea-water and Laxatives” diet that some misguided family members talked me into doing for 10 days in 2007!

I went to a dietitian and a diabetes educator for advice (and then I followed that advice!) and joined the local diabetes health organization.

I switched to a low GI and low fat diet:
I turned my back on potatoes, on bread, pastries and all flour-based foods, on rice (an Asian who can’t eat rice! Still, my days of creativity and life are worth more than all the world’s bowls of freshly steamed rice…)on candies and jellybeans (not a problem, I never liked them) and anything made with glucose (Greek Halvah, alas!) Said goodbye to all noodles (except soba and bean thread,) to processed meats, to butter, and to all but a thin sliver, a mere shaving, an occasional crumb of cheese.
I still enjoy beautiful food. I have turned to pasta with elaborate sauces of roasted tomato, grilled eggplants, basil and kangaroo fillets…to bulgur as tabbouleh or as a spiced bed for fiery vindaloo…to rich dhals of chickpea or split yellow pea or mung beans…to avocado and smoked salmon on a mound of fresh salad sprinkled with toasted seeds and walnuts…to bowls of fruit tossed with pure floral honey and yogurt. I watch my portion sizes. I don’t feel like someone on a strict diet!

I started taking the daily hormone for my hypothyroidism.

I went to a doctor and paid her to design a workout program for me. I enrolled in a good gym, and went there three days a week. I also asked my husband to build and install a simple workout bench on the deck of our boat. I bought several pairs of dumbells and a yoga mat. I use them on the days that I don’t go to the gym and it isn’t pouring rain.

The results? I’ve had 6 or 8 cigarettes in the past year. I no longer dream that I am smoking, either. In October I had the blood sugar of a normal person (no longer pre-diabetic), my thyroid antibody levels were down, my blood pressure was unremarkable, and I had lost 13 kgs (28 lbs). Needless to say, I really do feel very good, and I’ve gone from a size 18 to a 12 (at some shops I’m a 10). So yes, it did pay off in a very satisfying way, and my initial success has done wonders for my willpower and self-esteem. That sounds like a mouthful of New Age crap, but it’s true.

It doesn’t end here, of course…I know I can never go back to living the way I used to…and why would I want to, when that way obviously wasn’t working for me? I haven’t had this much energy and verve for years.

I don’t know where the strength to change so many things, so quickly, came from, but I am grateful that it came, and that it stayed with me through the year.
Fear played a part: that lump that started me on my journey of personal health. Nothing like the hint of cancer to make a girl sit up and take notice.
Honesty, too…my grandmother and mother both developed full-blown diabetes—my mother is now blind in one eye because she ignored the many, many years of warning signs, and lived as though she believed she was somehow above it all, or that it would, in passing, spare her for some special reason—and I had to finally face the hard fact that I had inherited the tendency to become diabetic; that, unless I made special efforts to avoid it, it would come for me, too, and that I would suffer as I got older.

And having reasons to live and stay healthy will often help turn a sea of unresolved grays into clear black-and-white choices. Kris, my partner and best friend, whom I love more than I love anyone or anything else in my world, is an active, adventurous, healthy man full of passion for life; looking after myself is one way of loving and respecting him, as well as being able to accompany him and share those adventures.

Also, there is that joy beyond words—the ardour, excitement, and intense satisfaction—that I get from other people’s art, and from making things, myself. I love getting up in the morning and taking a book of poems from a shelf, to enjoy with my coffee…or sitting in the dark with my headphones on, adrift on a sea of music… almost as much as I love being able to spend my days in my studio, deep in creative mindfulness… wholly engaged in the playful act of making something, where there was nothing.

These are my reasons for changing, and hoping to stay changed. How could I keep following my old ways, when there was so much beauty and joy and love at stake?

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5 thoughts on “The End, part 1:: Stay Changed Always

  1. I really do love this post; thank you for sharing something so personal. Congratulations on the successes you’ve had in 2010 — you’ve made some huge lifestyle changes!

    I’ve never been a smoker, but I’ve always battled with poor eating habits. I’m 45 now and feel like it’s time to get a handle on that. No food is more enjoyable than being able to be a wife and daughter and mother and crafter [g] and dog-owner and friend for many, many more years — I need to retain that perspective when I find myself mindlessly reaching for a food that doesn’t provide healthful benefits for my body.

    In the “yay me!” column, last week I made a commitment to myself to begin walking our dogs daily for 15-20 minutes, eventually working up to longer walks twice a day. For the past 4 or 5 days, I’ve done those walks, much to the delight of our dogs [g]. When it gets to be about the “walking” time of day, they’ll start looking in the shoes basket by the front door for their leashes! So they’re doing good about not letting me skip “just this one day” . . . as is my son, who’s joined us on the last couple walks and asked me today what time we’d be going.

    It feels good to make positive lifestyle changes. Continued success with yours =).

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    1. And thank you, Glenda, for sharing in turn! I am delighted that the post touched a few people.

      Exercise, it’s a funny thing…it is SO DAMN HARD to get up and go out there the first few times; yet when we do, it feels fantastic, and our spirits lift in knowing that we did something to look after ourselves, and our self-esteem rises because we actually did something we SAID we’d do…I enjoy the hour after working out so much, I find myself wondering, sometimes, why it took me so long to get started (or when I go slack for a week or two, why it took me so long to climb back on the wagon!)

      Yay, YOU! Congratulations on the success with your walks…and you’re so right not to attempt big walks right away! I think that too many people who know they need to start exercising, imagine they will have to start with a two-hour hard slog that will half kill them, and scare themselves this way. But then they will get in the car and drive 20 metres down the road to buy some milk. 15 minutes of walking a day will change your life completely, if it’s 15 minutes every day! It’s an awesome feeling when you start loving yourself.
      Good luck and do keep in touch!
      XX Nat

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  2. Congratulations on all the positive changes, Nat! I’m so proud of you. 🙂 And of course, once again you’ve inspired me to start taking better care of myself. Now that I’m no longer walking with a cane — hooray! — I can get back to working out again. I’ll try to see it in a positive light, as you have. That way it will seem less like a chore and more like an adventure.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful talent, creativity, and lust for life with us. Sobrang nakakainspire.

    Happy New Year! 🙂

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    1. Marnie, I feel so sheepish when you write me this way, it’s funny when someone who’s known you for years and years goes all ‘fan-like’! 😀 Stop now, please, it’s just me. Still just me. I am only now learning things that I wish we’d been taught when we were young women in high school, y’know? Where the hell was “a practical and useful education that would serve us later in life”? I remember touch-typing classes and rolling sushi. What about you, what did you take away from our exclusive school education? *laughs*
      Sorry to hear about the cane. Maybe your present workout is too intense? Get a physio to design one for you, ha? No point damaging your knee more…I wish you well with your recovery! And I am counting the weeks (WEEKS NA LANG!) till I see you again. You and me, and a bonefolder, girl. Suh-WEET.

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      1. Oh, good Lord, those sushi classes! Hahaha! I still remember those! I also still remember those gawdawful shorts and night gowns we had to make in Home Ec class, the human rosary chains in October, and the endless rehearsals for masses. ROFL! 🙂

        No need to feel sheepish, lola. It’s just honest admiration for the work that you make, really, and the adventures that you’ve lived through that have made you who you are now. I’m glad that we’re still friends even after all these years. 🙂

        You, me, and a bonefolder in March. Can’t wait! 😀

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