When Linda’s illness became overwhelming for me, the very first casualty was my commitment to eat well.
There came a point where the progression of the disease accelerated very quickly and I was having trouble keeping up with it emotionally. I began to sink into all of the negative emotions that most caregivers are familiar with, and that resulted in a giving up of sorts. I stopped exercising as regularly as I had, and I traded Eating Well for eating conveniently. I was just too fried (pun intended) to devote much energy at the end of the day to prepare healthy meals, or even to plan ahead, which in retrospect would have been so much easier. My weight ballooned from 205 to 235 pounds, and my level of energy sank to an all time low. The poor quality of foods I was eating (potato chips, fried foods, ice cream, ice cream, and did I mention ice cream?) was contributing to everything from depression to feelings of failure and low self-esteem. What a conundrum!
I could probably have bought a small country house just with the money I wasted on terrible take out food! But…it was easy and I was tired. In a nutshell, I dropped the ball by making poor eating choices and I paid a dear price for it!
There came a point during this process when I became sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. Not only was I heavier than I had ever been, I was taking care of Linda in a way that was unfair to her. I was out of breath and cranky all the time and I began to feel the best years of my life were slipping away from me.
I know it’s odd to define caregiving as the best years of my life, and yet somehow I feel as if they have been the most spiritually transformational and have taught me the most valuable lessons about life.
At some point, a switch flipped inside of me (aided by the often not welcome daily reminders by Joko that I am killing myself slowly, my heart was acting up and none of my pants fitted me properly).
I have been a chiropractor for over three decades. One of my core responsibilities is to encourage and inspire my patients to make healthy choices. Obviously, one of the more accessible choices that people can make is Eating Well. It is relatively easy; there is information about proper nutrition everywhere you turn.
No one would ever doubt that the rewards of choosing a healthy diet are huge. So why would anyone choose to eat poorly?
For the first two years following Linda’s diagnosis, I ordained myself the family chef/nutritionist and placed both of us on an immaculate program of optimal nutrition in the hopes that Linda’s disease somehow had a metabolic cause and we would find some resolution in healthy eating. After two years on this very strict program, Linda’s condition had deteriorated dramatically as did her body weight, to the point where it became alarming. She started at a beautiful 150 pounds (she is 5.7) and shrank down to a frightening 107 pounds. Currently, she is not much more than that despite the fact she eats whatever she wants and she can put it away with the best of them!
So in the span of a couple of weeks, I eased myself into eliminating the foods that I knew were harmful to me physically, emotionally and even psychologically. As I did, I replaced them with foods that were highly nutritious, lighter, unprocessed, greener and leaner. Within days, miraculously (not really, because anyone can experience the exact same results), my brain fog lifted and I began to think more clearly. I felt way more comfortable in my body and most importantly, my mood had begun to transform. I was feeling happier again! And with that, the ability to take care of Linda improved, my bounce came back at the office and I simply began to feel the way I know I am supposed to feel when I take care of myself.
On a different note, the thought had crossed my mind more than once, that should Linda pass before I do, I was still healthy to enjoy my life. I owe that not just to myself, but also to Linda, who has always wanted only the best for me.
The choice to get back to living a healthier life style seemed like the obvious choice!
It really is a very simple equation: