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Mental and Physical Self-Healing: Starting a Health Journey

March 26, 2017


Buckle up, folks — this is a long one. So grab a (healthy) snack and stick with me.

For those who know me well, you know that I never watched what I ate (and I indulged often), never exercised, and didn’t care to check the labels on things I used in my home or on my body.

You might also know that last fall I started experiencing some weird symptoms.

Right before we flew to Iceland I came down with a terrible sore throat. It almost felt like I was allergic to something and I could barely get air through my passageway. It eventually lessened but by the time we left Iceland my sore throat was so bad I couldn’t swallow water without it falling down my chin. This was — by far — the worst sore throat I’ve ever had in my life. I went to the doctor’s office when I got home and he suggested that it was from household cleaning supplies. Um what? I didn’t believe him.

A couple months later I felt my eyesight (20/20) starting to blur and a couple weeks after that I lost my taste. Entirely. For over a month.

At first I thought I was just a terrible chef because I had been experimenting with new recipes and everything was so flavorless, and Tyler is such a sweet husband that I thought he was trying to make me feel better when he told me they were some of my best creations. It wasn’t until he gave me a piece of extra sharp cheddar that I realized I couldn’t taste a single flavor in it.

I went back to the doctor and he said he couldn’t think of why this was happening, but he did offer a massive blood panel (the phlebotomist raised her eyebrows and asked if I wanted a wheelchair when she saw how much was being drawn) testing for nearly everything, even lead poisoning. 

It all came back inconclusive and without explanation my taste came back a couple of days later.

Besides these weird instances, I have been dealing with some pretty severe pain, exhaustion, and nausea for roughly 10 years. This has affected my social life, how often I get out of the house, and more. It’s very inconvenient and hard to explain to friends and family.

All of the above were scary, but the worst part for me was that they couldn’t find anything wrong.

It’s not that I wanted something to be wrong with me, but I wanted to end my symptoms for good.

I’d heard people talk about switching up their diet and exercise to fix their pain and gain energy and thought they were crazy.

If I didn’t have energy to get out of bed in the morning, how would I do crunches and squats? If my neck, hips, and knees constantly felt tight and painful, wouldn’t they hurt more with exercise? I’m always hungry and I hate eggs, lettuce, chicken, and pretty much anything healthy — how do I change my diet if I’ll never feel satisfied?

After my last doctor’s visit I learned I was 25 pounds overweight.

I weighed more than I did the day before I gave birth to Fox. That was a huge reality check.

I had enough and out of desperation I decided to make a few changes. I started slow thinking it would be hard, but quickly moved forward on my health journey after realizing that not only was it not difficult, but it was pretty fun, rewarding, and it had effects that moved beyond my outward appearance.

I’ll give you a hard dose of my private reality that I rarely let people in on: I was depressed, I was anxious all the time, I fought with my husband almost daily, and my head was always clouded with negative thoughts. I didn’t realize how bad it was.

I’ve made a few changes that have helped to alter my mental and physical path since then. Here’s what’s working for me.

  • Eating clean

    I began counting calories at first and realized there’s no need when you’re eating clean and responsibly. I practice portion control and wait 15 minutes if I feel like I’m still hungry. Usually the hunger disappears and I just needed a moment to digest. I’ve also been making an apple cider vinegar cocktail every morning (8 oz. water and 1-2 Tbsp. organic apple cider vinegar) that helps increase my metabolism and reduces water retention.

  • Working out at home

    I’ve learned that I do not work well at in-studio workout centers — at least for now. I always feel a lot of pressure from the teacher and I focus on things that aren’t important, like how I look in the mirror or if my legs will hit another student because I’m standing too close. I’m more zen at home with YouTube workouts where I’m up to 60 minutes of exercise a day! I’m a huge fan of Blogilates and Love Sweat Fitness. I can set my a/c to the exact temperature I want, switch my shirt if I get too sweaty, and customize my daily routines to fit my needs.

  • Drinking a lot of water

    I used to get so sick of hearing this one because I hated water. With a fiery passion. But I started drinking it and it became a habit. My skin is more clear and it’s helping me lose weight. I do better when it’s cold and so does your metabolism. 

  • Luxurious showers

    This one sounds silly but it’s doing wonders for my psyche. I use a eucalyptus shower mist to relax me and awake my senses, go through several steps of an in-shower facial, and put on my spa robe and spray leave-in conditioner when I get out. I love that I can take a shower and not think about anything except how good my shower mist smells or how smooth the skin on my face feels after I wash it with my favorite scrub.

  • Buying smart

    Honestly, part of the reason why I never consumed well is that I didn’t know what to look for. There are websites that make it easier for me to shop products that are better for my body and home which saves a lot of sifting. My favorites right now are Milk & Eggs, Thrive Market, and Grove Collaborative.

  • Keeping a clean home

    This one is huge for me. Tyler and I have always been kind of messy and it clutters my mind and makes me feel restrained. Most of it is having a toddler in the house who pulls everything out as we put it away. I read something today that said, “Trying to fold laundry with a toddler in the house is like trying to straighten a desk of papers with a fan blowing directly on it.” Yep! I’ve started to purge things we don’t need and store items I’m not ready to part with so that we have virtually nothing to pull out or mess up. I’ve also taken to doing dishes as they happen, folding laundry as soon as the buzzer goes off, and keeping a hand vacuum nearby to immediately get up crumbs and cat hair.

  • Starting slow

    Part of my problem with diet and exercise in the past was that I tried to jump into it instead of taking a slow road. It was a shock to my system to go 0-60 and it was very hard to maintain. Starting slow allowed my body to adjust and made the transition more sustainable.

I’m not perfect and I have a super long way to go, but I’m proud of my progress so far — especially mentally. I feel happiness I haven’t felt in so long, I’m heads and shoulders more productive, and feel like I’ve been a much better mom and wife. I am no longer exhausted or in pain — in fact my workouts make me feel energized and my joints don’t hurt. I sleep better at night too.

Who knew that all of these crazy symptoms I was having were not due to an illness. They came from neglecting myself.

Oh, and those cleaning products my doctor warned me about? I used to think my sore throat and stuffy nose after cleaning came from kicking up dust, but since I started using green products I haven’t had any allergy or cold symptoms post deep-clean. He just may know what he’s talking about!

As for my body, one day I’ll be ready to show my before and after photos when I feel like I’ve finally reached that “after” status, but not today.

I’m excited to hold myself accountable through this post and hope you follow along as I share my triumphs (and inevitable stumbles). 

BTW, the photo above is from the breakfast I ate this morning! I got the recipe from Blogilates if you’re interested in learning how to make it. It took less than 5 minutes to put together and only one mason jar was dirtied in the process šŸ˜‰

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2 Comments

  • Reply Sara Mosher March 27, 2017 at 7:08 am

    I loved this post!!! That’s exactly what I am going through right now. Every symptom that you had I literally went through myself. My goal is to lose 10 lbs and have more energy. Both my hubby and I have noticed that the weight gain combined with the lethargic attitude is really dragging us down. I’m going to try some of your tips and really exercise (which truly is a struggle for me). Thanks for the wonderful blog, I look forward to reading it every week. Good luck with your goals! šŸ™‚

    • Reply Sarabeth McElhaney March 27, 2017 at 9:29 am

      Thank you so much, Sara! This is the first time I’ve been successful in keeping up with everything and started to see noticeable changes after a small amount of time.

      The two YouTubers I mentioned are amazing for different reasons. Blogilates I unbelievably positive and has a way of motivating me through the screen! You should try her Quick Burn videos — they’re about 5 minutes a piece and you’ll still feel the burn after! You can always repeat the video when you’re done if you’re up to it.

      Love Sweat Fitness went on a weight loss journey of her own and I always think about how she’s managed to change her body during workouts which is inspirational itself!

      I’m going to continue sharing once I pinpoint the workouts and recipes that are working best for me šŸ™‚
      Sarabeth McElhaney recently posted…Mental and Physical Self-Healing: Starting a Health JourneyMy Profile

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