This was not the first change I made to improve my life, but it has been the most important, so I want to talk about it.
I am not fat. I have never been fat. I have been bigger than I should be, but the worst I’ve been is a little bit overweight, so when I say ‘diet’, I do not mean ‘I went on a crash diet and lost a bunch of weight and gained self-confidence!’ No, when I say ‘diet’, I mean improving what you put in your body, not controlling how much. Though obviously I do recommend proper portion sizes for anyone with eating disorders of any kind.
I mentioned in my longwinded backstory that I’ve had some health issues. I didn’t really get into them, and I’m still not going to, but they were incredibly painful, and being immune to painkillers, I basically just had/have (some of them still crop up from time to time) to live with that pain. A lot.
I dealt with one of the bigger issues with a necessary surgery that has drastically improved my overall quality of life and likely extended my life significantly…especially since if I hadn’t gotten it dealt with, it was probably going to kill me. It had already nearly killed me once, and there was every expectation that it would try again.
That solved that issue (though it did cause a new one, but one that is significantly easier to deal with), but it certainly hasn’t put a stop to my health issues altogether. Turns out when you’re angry all the time, your body gets used to being in constant fight or flight mode, and once that’s gone, your energy levels plummet. Who knew? I was no longer living on adrenaline; I had to actually fuel myself through food like normal people! God forbid. This…proved difficult. I also mentioned in that longwinded backstory that my parents weren’t around to provide food a lot when I was young, and that even when they were, I started making my own food choices as a toddler. Because toddlers obviously make the healthiest food choices, I basically grew up on junk food, to an even more extreme level than most kids, so when I got older, that buzz that most people get from sugar or caffeine had pretty much no effect on me at all.
So the high adrenaline was gone, the sugar rush wasn’t an option, coffee was disgusting and didn’t work anyway, same thing with those horrible energy drinks; what could I do? Sleep pretty much constantly; that’s what I did. If I wasn’t at work, I was sleeping. For the record, that’s why I kept disappearing from updating this blog; I wasn’t able to muster up enough rage at the books to get that burst of energy/motivation, I had no free time at work to work on updates, and when I wasn’t at work, I was so tired I couldn’t even stay awake long enough to watch a tv show, let alone do anything that required actual thought.
This went on for a while. I found a few things that helped, but they mostly just made it so I could do things that needed to be done without having to fight the urge to pass out. On a bad day (when I wasn’t working), I could easily sleep for 18 hours and still feel absolutely exhausted for the six I would force myself to stay awake through. This was a pretty drastic change from before I’d moved, when I slept four hours a night at best. I didn’t want to have to undo the emotional progress I’d made to get my energy levels back, but there were a couple of points when I genuinely considered it.
But then help found me. Llama and her boyfriend both suffer from terrible highway hypnosis (basically where getting behind the wheel causes you to fall asleep, even if you weren’t tired before getting in the car), and her boyfriend found that B vitamins helped with that. I started tracking what I was eating and noticed that, what do you know, I eat pretty much nothing with B vitamins in it. So I started taking them (specifically B12 and B100, in case you’re curious), and it helped. I wasn’t constantly exhausted.
But I wasn’t done there. I decided I wanted to get healthier. I wanted to physically feel better, not just not exhausted all the time. I was still oversleeping, just not nearly as much, and I wanted to actually feel normal, so I decided to make some drastic (for me) changes. One of those changes was dropping pop from my diet almost entirely, to help reduce my sugar intake to healthy levels.
I replaced the pop with green tea. I want to make it very clear: I hate green tea. It was disgusting and I didn’t want to drink it, but I knew how good for you it was, and dammit, I wanted to be healthier, so I fucking drank that disgusting tea. I tried adding things to it like lemon and honey to make it more palatable, but the best I ever managed to get with it was ‘drinkable without immediately following it up with something else to get rid of the taste’. But it did help me cut out the pop, and tea in general really is good for you. I noticed a difference pretty quickly. The b vitamins helped me sleep less, the tea seemed to help me actually have the energy to do more than just things I had to do.
(For the record, for people who are like me who want to make a change but hate green tea, oolong and white tea have similar health benefits and taste better, to me at least. Still not great, but much easier to get down. Particularly cold. For people who actually like green tea, I wish I could be you…)
So here I am, a few months after making those changes, and not only do I (usually) sleep more normal amounts of hours, but I have the energy to exercise, and think properly again. When you’re exhausted all the time, your mental faculties just go right to hell, and I did not at all appreciate just being able to think about things nearly as much as I should have. I don’t take in nearly as much sugar as I used to (another positive thing about tea is it decreases your desire for sugar, making it easier to cut back), I am healthier, and while in general I don’t restrict myself from eating what I want, I am more conscious about what I’m eating and what I actually need.
It’s amazing how much of a difference getting what you need makes. It has a huge effect on your mood. When you don’t have what you need, you feel tired, have a harder time focusing (which gets frustrating), and sometimes experience minor health issues like getting sick easier, which causes more problems. It can even contribute to overeating, because if you’re missing something important, your body knows it, and it keeps trying to get what it’s missing, which is why a lot of the time, if you have a craving that just will not go away, you should probably take a look at what you’re actually getting from your food and determine if there’s something missing.
I definitely recommend taking a few days and tracking what you eat on an app/website like myfitnesspal.com, or just writing it down if you have the discipline to actually note all that information (which I don’t). After a couple of days, take a look at the nutrition information and see what your vitamin intake looks like on average. Just improving your food doesn’t help everyone, but for some people, a large part of emotional issues that don’t directly stem from circumstances is at least partly due to poor nutrition, so just taking a multivitamin or making even some small changes to your diet can genuinely help some people. Even if it only helps a little bit, that little bit better you feel can make the difference between being able to make other changes and not. That little bit of extra energy, that little bit of extra focus, just feeling a little bit less crappy first thing in the morning, can give you that little boost you need to work on something else that could make an even bigger difference in your life. And obviously it’s not just your emotional health that’s important when looking at your diet; being physically healthy is really important for all kinds of reasons, and often looking at what you eat is the first step to improving overall health for most people. Especially in this day and age, when a lot of what we eat comes from a box, and probably doesn’t exactly add up to a balanced diet.
For the record, I still WAY overdo it with salt. You can take my salt when I’m dead! Pretty much the only thing I specifically limit is my sugar intake, actually. I try to make healthier choices, but I still eat potato chips and pizza and such. I just try to make things myself if I can, cut out pop almost entirely, often going days without any (and I want to stress that I have been an addict my entire adult life and a large portion of my childhood and teens, and actually experienced withdrawal symptoms when I would try to cut it out in the past, so if I can do it, so can you), take vitamins, try to eat more fruits and veggies, drink more water (another thing you really don’t understand the importance of until you do it for a while and feel the difference), and eat fewer cookies. Overall, pretty minor changes, considering the size of the effect they’ve had.