My 8 year old Chihuahua, Shorty, taught me to never say never. He came into our lives several years ago when Paris Hilton was in the social spotlight. When I would see her walking around carrying her little purse dog I thought it was the dumbest thing I had ever seen. I swore I would never have a small dog, let alone one that was dressed to match my outfits and carried around in a purse. Then Shorty walked (more like wobbled) into our lives. At barely 4 pounds he looked like something that had just escaped a Chihuahua concentration camp. He was full of illness, allergy, and infection. A real mess. A heartbreaking mess. There were signs of severe neglect and we suspected he had been abused as well.
My heart felt something it had never experienced before and I still find it difficult to articulate. In short, Shorty not only healed my heart but opened my mind and spirit to receive unexpected gifts from the universe. He changed me forever. All these years later, I have circled around the idea of applying these lessons to my life in different ways.
And so it began in February of 2014 after I had cervical spinal surgery to correct several disc herniation’s and repair a couple more protrusions that were flattening my spinal cord. OUCH. My road to recovery has been long and difficult and I have accepted that my body will never be the same. Having all this time off however has given me the time and space to really evaluate my life and my quality of living. I have to admit, it was a very depressing evaluation. Each day I was driving 100 miles door to door for my job on the peninsula and spending upwards of 5 hours a day behind the wheel, on top of the 8-12 hours I spent in the office. When I wasn’t tired I was exhausted. My body felt old and tired and I hurt all the time. The weight kept piling on and I was not treating my body very kindly.
I do NOT believe in diets or pills that claim to change our lives forever. The diet industry on whole is nothing more than a bunch of greedy, thieving bastards making money on our insecurities and ignorance. This is not something I wanted any part of, as I truly believe that there is not one diet pill or diet method out there that has any interest in helping me do anything but part with my hard-earned cash. So I decided to apply my never say never attitude to my diet with a very strong intention of making changes in small but meaningful ways. I also made a commitment to making better choices to improve my overall health and well-being. It began with very small changes, or what I have come to call trade-offs.
Trade-off number one was important to me for many reasons. It was relatively easy to accomplish and I felt it had the greatest benefit. It all started with one glass of water. Coffee sustained me and I typically drank a full 12-cup pot of coffee each and every day. You do not have to be a doctor or a nutritionist to realize how unhealthy this behavior is, common sense dictates right? I began to trade one cup of coffee for one glass or bottle of water and kept trading until I had successfully weaned myself down to a moderate amount of coffee consumption. Two cups per day now, more or less. Sometimes I have more and sometimes I have less. That is the beauty of my trade-off experiment; I really do not ever feel like I am sacrificing anything.
The same holds with other areas of my life. All things are okay in moderation by making responsible and reasonable choices with full self-awareness of those choices. Except for my smoking, this really has to come to an end. But I have made trade-offs there as well. Once a two pack per day smoker I am now down to about 3 to 5 cigarettes per day. How? Trade-offs. The key to my trade-offs is that they must be a healthier alternative to my current behavior. So, I began trading cigarettes for something else: a glass of water, a 10 minute walk around the neighborhood, maybe a few minutes of stretching or deep breathing on my yoga mat. No choice or activity should take longer than 10 minutes. Slowly, I have made these changes with very encouraging results.
I feel so much better, stronger in mind, body, and spirit. Not only have I decreased my weight by 18 pounds but more importantly, I have lessened my appetite for sugar and caffeine. Once a chocolate addict that could eat a pound of See’s truffles in one sitting I find one or two pieces are more than enough to satisfy my cravings. And the less bad I put into my body the less bad my body craves. The reverse is also true, if I add bad to my body I feel bad physically. A true carb hangover is enough to make me say “That did not feel good and I won’t be eating that again.” My desire is to achieve a more natural state of being, to return my body to its natural state by fueling myself with more natural food sources. For me, the key was to not apply any expectations at all or expect any immediate results, but to focus on changing my routine. Several years ago, my mother in law was telling me that she planned on losing 20 pounds, wanted to start an exercise regimen, and she was going to quit smoking. I thought to myself, that sounds like a lot to do all at once and if she fails she is going to feel even worse, like a true failure. Instead of grand plans and New Year’s resolutions I believed the key to success was starting small, managing realistic expectations, and measuring success beyond my dress size.
Here are some examples of my typical trade-offs:
Craving a yummy lemon bar – eat an apple first with a glass of water. If I am still craving a lemon bar I have one, but most of the time I did not want the sweet any more.
Cereal for breakfast – no thank you. A handful of nuts and a piece of fruit provide better, longer-lasting fuel. Being satisfied nutritionally eventually curbs those carb cravings.
After lunch slump, craving sweets – a nice cup of tea, Good Earth Sweet and Spicy is my favorite and a yogurt. I love Brown Cow’s Maple or Chocolate with yummy cream on top.
I should also note that there are certain things I simply do not consume, like anything with a sugar substitute such as diet soda and there are other things I am especially mindful about. Because I am not a nutritionist or a chemist and I really want to know what I am putting into my body I do read labels and tend to not indulge in many preprocessed or prepackaged meals.
So, if you are really interested in making healthier choices remember to never say never to anything that you really want. Limiting ourselves is the quickest path to failure I can think of. Instead, make one small change today and see how it FEELS, how it makes you feel. If you are feeling frustrated or deprived it will lead to poor choices like binge eating the very thing you promised yourself to never have again. This leads to guilt and self-loathing, which serves no other purpose than making you feel even worse, and on and on it goes.