I said this to someone this week (who told me they count the almonds they allow themselves every afternoon 😯) and decided it might be the title of the book I (probably never!) write!!!
So, it seemed fitting to write about living life to the fullest.
On August 1, it will be 5 years since my operation. On the day I penned the ‘almond counting’ comment, I met another brain tumour survivor at work and I came home to a letter from the hospital for my yearly checkup.
I am seriously fu**ing proud of what my mind and body have achieved and conquered in the last 5 years. The pic on the left is 2 days post my operation. I could barely walk a lap of the hospital ward and my face was as swollen as Shrek, resulting in the awesome side effect of no wrinkles! The pic on the right is 3 weeks ago, showing a slightly bonkers contortionist who just loves a challenge and is beyond stoked her body is strong and fit and able to do some pretty amazing things. I’ll deal with the resulting wrinkles !!
What I have learnt, is to ‘live’. To understand what ‘good health’ truly means and to treat my mind and body with the respect they are due, after the incredible service they gave me! They have to work together – my mind and body. Brain surgery really taught me that. Treat either one badly and the other throws a serious tantrum!!
Working in the health/fitness/wellbeing industry, I am becoming increasingly disturbed by the increase and prevalence of disordered eating and behaviours around food, fitness and supposed ‘healthy’ attitudes to lifestyle. Whether in person or on social media, I am saddened and shocked by the amount of women (and men) living their lives from one pre-weighed meal to the next and trying to fit in multiple fitness sessions in a day to burn more calories, covet a ‘calorie deficit’ or attain a body fat percentage meant for a lizard! What’s just as disturbing is the amount of people world-wide following and looking up to these supposed role models, as beacons of good health. It’s a scary domino effect. It’s sad.
Of course there is a time and place for increased ‘strictness and routine’ – maybe when someone needs to lose weight to improve their health – but we seem to have forgotten how to be happy and healthy once we’ve reached a sensible goal. This goes for obsessive behaviour around everything on the health and fitness spectrum – from keto diets to preaching that doing yoga every day is the only way to be a ‘mindful and kind’ human.
Maintenance and longevity seem to have gone out the window in favour of denial, discipline and deprivation, which to many, seeks to prove their dedication to a ‘healthy lifestyle’.
What I do know is that health & wellbeing are not just physical. I think we need to promote the importance of ‘mental fitness’ alongside ‘physical fitness’ – as one cannot exist without the other.
We all have times when we have over indulged, gained a little and need to reign it in, but this is not a lifelong ‘state’ we are meant to live in. To live like this for an extended period puts our bodies and minds under constant stress, which can actually lead to serious health issues. The antithesis of good health.
This is not dedication to a healthy lifestyle – it’s fear and control that are prevailing and these are both dangerous and indicate poor mental wellbeing. These are markers of poor ‘mental fitness’, even when physically – someone may appear in great condition.
It is an issue for two very salient reasons .
One – it is not sustainable.
Two – the fear and control applied will also exist in other parts of someone’s life and cause considerable unhappiness.
Obsessive structure to any part of our life is damaging.
I have never weighed my food unless it’s for a recipe . I have absolutely no idea how many calories I ingest in a day. I eat a variety of foods and my routine is different most days. I am very conscious of my body fat getting too low, which would affect my hormone balance and make me look years older than I am! What’s the point of having a healthy body if my face looks like a lizard!
I am 47 years old. I am fitter than I have ever been in my life and I have been training, at a pretty intense level, since I was 5 years old. There is no way my body could do what it does now, if it was under a constant state of stress for 42 years! Longevity is about finding an achievable balance and setting realistic goals that are physically and mentally healthy.
Yes – I have a fitness routine, as it has to be planned in, but I would never say no to a social event because it would involve me missing a class or a gym session. I know if I gain weight I need to eat a little less and if I lose too much weight ( cos people need to recognise this too) I need to eat a little more. I’m a really healthy eater ( it’s the food I enjoy) but I don’t deny myself food groups unless it’s for actual health reasons – eg: I have coeliacs so avoid gluten and as I wrestle with being the proud owner of a brain tumour ( 🤞🏼 just remnants of it now!) and resulting epilepsy… I sometimes move towards a higher fat diet (ketogenic) when seizures are bad. (This is what the keto diet was actually designed for btw).
My weight also fluctuates up or down a couple of kilos and I’m ok with this – it’s normal. In the summer I am always leaner than the winter as I tend to eat more – I’m just hungrier in the cold. And if I start to up my training, my appetite normally goes in the same direction, so I will often be heavier than when I train less. When I travel, I will often be lighter as I am doing less resistance training and eating less protein . And if I get sick, like anyone, both my training and appetite change. Having a critical illness that stops you in your tracks throws all of this up in the air. Stress affects my appetite a great deal too and my gut will often be aggravated. These are just all normal parts of life and we have to be able to adapt to change.
Ensuring your mind and body (your diet and fitness) are adaptable and can deal with change are AS important as the routine you follow.
I have learnt over the last 5 years that ‘living’ life and making the most of every day mean EVERYTHING! Being fit and healthy helped save my life and aided my recovery ten-fold. It gives me (some) control over my health condition and is hopefully, a powerful preventative. More than this, it gives me strength in mind and body, as no matter how hard I try, many illnesses and traumas in life cannot be prevented. So rather than worry about things I cannot control or predict – I chose to be strong and ready to deal with whatever sh*t might get thrown at me!
The importance of rest, relaxation, friendship, family and love are so important to our health and wellbeing. If your diet and fitness regime prevent you having these things in your life, then there is a worrying imbalance that is affecting your emotional wellbeing and means your ‘mental fitness’ is poor. The long term effects of this, have a high chance of manifesting themselves into serious physical illness.
What I am dam certain of – is that every second, minute, hour and day of life is precious, a gift and not to be taken for granted.
I am not about to waste that gift by counting my almonds – I’ll grab a handful thanks and use that extra minute to smile, laugh and make a memory.
Life is just too short to count almonds. End of story!!!