What Finally Helped Me Improve My Health

Jul. 17th, 2017

I’ve been trying to lose weight for a very long time. A lot of my life it felt as though I’d never be able to reduce my weight on purpose. I kept trying to watch what I ate and to exercise more, even trying some of the more well known diets and joining the local gym. Nothing worked.

At age 22 I remember saying to my mother in law that her son and I could not afford to coast on our youth when it came to our health any longer. I knew the health histories of both my husband and my families and there were many things to be concerned about.

I was determined to change, this time, and make sure I had the best chance at a healthy life, for as long as possible. And I did try. And nothing really changed.

I have ADHD. Sustained challenging work without appreciable reward is not what we are known for. So I gave up, not on purpose or angrily, I just gradually stopped trying to change things.

Then, two years ago, for some reason zombies became a theme in my life. The weird thing is I’m terrified of zombies. If I watch more than one episode of The Walking Dead I will have nightmares for days afterward. I have thought for many hours about what I would do in the event of an uprising, and not in the fun, hobby way that I’ve heard many people talk about it. No. To me, the zombie apocalypse is deadly serious business, even though rationally I know this scenario is fictional. Do not get me started on the dangers of mosquitoes during Z-Day.

I heard about this app: Zombies, Run! and was really intrigued. It frightened me (What if I get nightmares...?!) but I was also fascinated by it. Eventually, one March day, during hail, I prepared the app and took a few laps of the acre we live on.

That was just the beginning.

There were a few fits and starts. My husband joined me, then we had to come up with something to do during the winter. Enter Dance Dance Revolution and JustDance. Then Pokemon GO replaced Zombies, Run! for us. It was imperfect but it was more consistent exercise than I’d ever done before.

Then it fell apart again. Over the course of 2016 we just kind of stopped. Then my husband decided he was going to start up again in late December. He said I was welcome to join him but that he was going to aim for exercising daily, not the three days a week we’d been doing previously. I agreed.

Now we have exercised every single day of 2017 as of this blog. Here are some of the big things that made this work for me.

1. Games

Zombies, Run!, Pokemon GO, DDR, and JustDance all have two things in common: they were all things that I used to exercise more consistently than I’d ever done before, and they are all games. If you want someone with ADHD to do something repeatedly, you need to make it fun.

2. A buddy

Because both my husband and I had made this commitment, we were able to support each other when we were struggling. Just the simple knowledge that the other one is relying on us to be there is subconsciously a big help for getting out of bed to exercise every morning.

3. Prioritizing

The flexibility of my schedule made it possible for me to prioritize my physical health, above almost anything. If I woke up late, I still exercised, even if that cut into work time (and I made sure not to schedule any coaching clients in the morning for this reason). I had to make this a priority that nothing else could push aside. If anything was allowed to become the exception, I’d be lost.

4. Keeping busy

Part of my lifelong issue with weight and health is that I’ve been home so much. Working from home has many benefits but one inescapable fact is the fridge is right there. Increasing the efficiency of my life made it so I was so engrossed in whatever I was doing that I didn’t think about food until it was time to make supper.

5. Menus planned

In April 2017 I created a menu plan for myself. I gathered all the dishes I love to cook and eat, that were low on carbs, and literally spread them out across 17 weeks of meals. I wrote the recipe titles on pieces of paper and physically moved them around so we weren’t having tomato based things for a month straight and chicken never followed chicken. Now my reminder app takes care of “What’s for dinner?” and it’s always pretty healthy.

6. Equipment

I am a strong believer that you don’t need any fancy gadgets or a gym membership to start exercising. However, once you start and you begin to notice things you need, then it’s time to go shopping. I purchased a hydration backpack, phone armband, yoga pants, and a new phone because I needed them to exercise in the way that made sense for me. They were all superb investments that have allowed me to get to where I am today.

7. Basic needs

When we’re tired we’re way more likely to grab something higher in calories and lower in nutrition because it’s easier. The same with lack of time. Ensuring a good night’s sleep and a calm and ordered schedule allows me to have the time and energy to cook the meals I’ve planned.

8. Daily weighing

I’ve heard people say explicitly not to weigh yourself daily and I think that’s perfectly valid. For tons of people it could be an unnecessary and harmful pressure and source of guilt. For me it really helps with awareness. Every morning I can see the consequences of the popcorn I ate last night. It didn’t help before I had everything else I’ve talked about in place, but now it’s very important.

9. Medical professionals

Exercise is difficult enough without being in pain. My doctor, chiropractor, and osteopath all work with me to make sure my body is working as it’s meant to. This means I don’t have to worry about pain or discomfort being a barrier to getting out there.

What helps you care for your health?