ME, Myself and I: Healthy(er) Living

This is a bit of a weird title, having healthy in a post about ME, and I know I spelled healthier wrong but just calling it healthier living also seemed a bit off and like it might be one of those ‘ten tips to a healthy life’ type posts which is isn’t. Mainly because it’s very hard to follow any of those when you have ME and also my life isn’t that healthy at the moment so it’d feel a bit hypocritical.

My new year’s resolution most years is to improve my lifestyle and I think I’ve done ok with it most years but it always slides in the second half, I’m determined this year it won’t and that this time next year I’ll have built up my stamina and energy levels to be able to go out maybe twice a week rather than the once I’m at now.

Besides the everyday thing of actually pacing and working out my limits I think that keeping my lifestyle relatively healthy has been the hardest thing for me since becoming ill. It’s not all about weight loss, I’d rather have a healthier lifestyle even without losing anything than force myself to do too much and make my health worse, but I think weight loss or gain can be a problem for a lot of us with any chronic illness that limits mobility or causes nausea. This post is definitely not about how to lose weight, it’s more me trying to improve the healthiness of my lifestyle so I can do more despite ME. I feel like if I can manage to improve my lifestyle, hopefully increase my stamina and possibly energy, then I’ll maybe get a bit more control back.

Before I was ill I was pretty active, I played football, tennis and rounders for my school and used to walk to and from the school bus every day which was over five minutes with a big hill up and down both ways. Going from that to hardly being able to leave the bed did make a big difference to what I needed to eat to keep the same weight. In a way I guess I was kind of lucky in that my hunger level also decreased so I didn’t gain too much weight to start with. Over the past five or size years though I did gain quite a bit, and for some reason it all happened rather rapidly. Aside from the year I was on thyroxine I haven’t really been able to shift it like I used to be able to because of my limitations with mobility. It’s probably the most frustrating thing when doctors say that the best way to lose weight is to do something active, start a sport, but I can’t even manage a fifteen minute walk around the countryside every day at the moment so proper exercises aren’t possible.

On the other end of the scale there was about a year where I found it hard to eat much due to the nausea and I wasn’t really doing anything so I ended up over a stone under my ideal weight and I just didn’t have the energy. I could have been tempted to stay that weight as I got compliments from a lot of people but I just wasn’t happy and couldn’t put on the weight. I didn’t have nausea bad enough for medication and it went away by itself but at the time I had no energy to do anything really as I wasn’t eating as much as I probably should have been. I don’t have any advice if that’s the problem for you, I just ended up eating things like salted crisps and simple plain food like that which do also seem to often have a lot of calories so that probably helped. Though that advice doesn’t really help with the healthy lifestyle.

The main way that I’ve found to improve my lifestyle and actually help me to lose weight as well as just become healthier in general (aside from the ME) is to improve my diet. I’ve found that I do have a tiny intolerance to gluten and dairy and removing them (or reducing them drastically) has improved my overall health a lot. I now have lactose free products and only hard cheese (apparently it has less lactose) and stick with spelt for almost everything though I do know my limits for gluten before I feel ill. I’ve ended up using the myfitnesspal app to keep a track of my calories and having to write it down means I don’t sneak extra sweets. I think that’s my problem, if I’m not feeling great I’d have some sweets or a chocolate bar and the main meals we have in the evenings aren’t that healthy with sauces and oil used a lot for cooking. I did, at one time, have different meals to my parents and there were a few recipes that I loved and were pretty good for calories, though they were mainly pasta sauces and salads rather than anything all that exciting but an easy tomato base sauce can be used for so much and can be pretty low calorie and healthy without being too bland.

One problem I have found with a lot of the healthy meals you can find is that they seem to have quite a bit of preparation, unless they’re plain salads, and I sometimes find that my energy levels sort of drop in the middle of cooking something. I’ve ended up adapting some recipes to my own version which is just quicker and it’s almost a case of throw all these in here and leave it for a while so I can just sit at the table or on the floor and not be stood there chopping and stirring for a long time.

The exercise half of the healthy lifestyle that every magazine and article always emphasises I think is the harder side for me to work on. I did start this summer saying ‘I’ll go for a fifteen minute walk each day’ and planned to build this up a bit. A walk with the dog is never all that fast and stressful anyway because he wants to stop and smell things every ten seconds so it’s a fairly relaxing walk at a slow pace and I thought it’d be doable considering when I’m feeling good I can manage shopping for a couple of hours if we have rests. I found, however, that after a while it became harder, I ended up doing it for probably two weeks but then I think I got a bit over confident with it and tried to do too much and added a bit longer on and I ended up with achey muscles and couldn’t go for the walk the next few days.

I realise that I probably should have taken my advice from previous posts and listened to my body, or rather have timetabled some breaks in there so even if I didn’t feel like I needed the rest I had it anyway, because doing things too many days in a row was just too much for me. From now on I’ll go for ‘fifteen minute walks, if I feel up to it’. I think the ‘if I feel up to it’ bit is the main thing, as although I do think that increasing the exercise gradually is a good idea there isn’t any point in trying to start this healthier lifestyle if it in fact makes my health worse.

I have found some simple stretches and muscle training things which help me with increasing my activity and making them ache less after doing anything bigger which is always a good thing. I’m planning on sticking with them every day unless I’m feeling too bad for them and then doing the walks when I’m up to it. Unfortunately at the moment I’ve had a lot on the past few weeks so I’m in the recovery phase and just starting to get up to walking round in the garden so it’s a few days off before a proper walk probably but still, I’ll get back to there again and this time try not to overdo it.

I’m not sure if any of this has been any help to anyone but I thought I’d post it anyway. If nothing else it might help give me that kick up the bum to get this properly started again. Does anyone else have tips? I’ve found most of the exercises and advice on this from other sufferers and places online so if anyone has any new ones they’ like to share I’d be prepared to try new things and see if they help.

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