My Health Journey

Tracey Lee Cassin
PART ONE - HOW IT WAS:
I first wrote about my story here on the blog in 2017.
I wanted to inspire others like me to 'never give up'.

You can read it here:  
https://miabellapassion.blogspot.com/2017/06/living-with-pain-and-invisible-illness.html

And this is how it WAS for a very long time!
.
UNTIL I took control of my diet.
.
And then things began to change.
.
You are what you eat and drink.
Fact.
.
Can you improve your health through diet?
Yes - I do believe you can.
.
Because:
I no longer call myself a chronic pain sufferer.
Pain flare-ups due to osteoarthritis are infrequent.
And when they do happen are much more manageable.
I lost 14kg over 16 months to January 2020.
And this made a massive difference to my pain levels and joint pain.
I'm still on a weight loss journey...
I have a goal.
I continue to lose weight.
I want to see if I can get my pain levels lower still.
And my energy levels up higher.
It's not about being skinny!
It's about regaining health and vitality.
.
How did I do this?
What lifestyle changes did I make?
How important is the mindset?
What worked for me?
What didn't?
Read on to find out...

PART TWO - THE ALIMENTS:
I've called part two 'The Ailments' for you kinda have to have a little understanding of what stress my body WAS under.
Overweight 5 ft 2 and 85kg (size 16)- joints under huge pressure.
Joint pain - osteoarthritis.
Sugar addict.
Energy drink addict.
'Big' wine drinker!
Sinus and hayfever - to the point of four day 'MAJOR' render one nonfunctional headache EVERY two or three weeks!
Bloating
Irritable Bowel problems
Stomach Problems - chronic reflux, pain.
Multi-Focal Atrial Tachycardia Heart Issue
Mind - STRESSED OUT!

So all those ailments rolled into one equalled one VERY UNHEALTHY, UNHAPPY, PAIN INFLICTED ME!
The crunch came...
I do believe you need a shocking wake up call sometimes.
(Well I did)
I thought I was having a heart attack.
Not once.
But three times.
The chest pain was indescribable.
I thought I was dying!
And it turned out it was not my heart.
Even though I live with tachycardia and have had heart surgery...it was my STOMACH!
That pain.
IT SCARED ME!
I vowed after the 3rd hospital admission to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
So I DID.
It was not an overnight fix.
It took time.
It took baby steps.
It took many, many lifestyle changes.
But I did it.
I'm still doing it.
I'm still learning.
I'm still working it out.

PART THREE - THE BEGINNING OF CHANGE:
And wine o'clock!
Sometimes habits creep into our lives.
And this is what happened to me.
Work hard, long days and weeks.
Have a wine to relax...
Stress.
Have a wine to cope.
Next minute wine is a habit.
A coping mechanism.
A great way to gain weight.
A great way to challenge the health of the human body.
The trouble was - I liked my evening wines.
But when the health crash came it was a matter of;
I simply did not ever want to feel that chest or stomach pain ever again.
So I stopped drinking.
Cold turkey.
It was hard to do.
It took dedication.
It took massive will power.
I love wine.
But I did this for my health.
I did it with the thought that any future wine drinking (when I actually got healthy) would be controlled - as in an 'out for dinner glass', or a 'special occasion' mindset.
So in my mind, I was not 'giving up' my beloved wine.
I was just having a break from it and 'resetting' how I was drinking it.
The weight fell off!
5kg in 6 months.
My stomach was healing.
I started to feel 'better' - better than I had in years!

PART FOUR - TO BREAD OR NOT TO BREAD?:
Another thing I love is BREAD!
But I worked out - BREAD did not love me.
I tried Gluten-free bread.
But my oh my - that is not for me.
I tried eating no bread at all.
But soup with no bread is a challenge.
And quite honestly I missed garlic bread so much.
So basically - for a long while, I replaced bought bread with home-baked
savoury and fresh herb scones and muffins.
Perfect with soup.
I then reintroduced some different types of bread.
Like sourdough, naan, flatbread, and ciabatta.
These are bread types I can eat with no bloating or nasty tum/bowel affects.
But they are a treat.
Once a week or fortnight.
Sometimes I just have buttered rice crackers with my boiled eggs.
I don't miss 'toast' at all anymore.
Eating bread and bread products less often led to more kilos falling off!

PART FIVE - LET'S TALK SUGAR AND CHOCOLATE:
OK - so here's the truth.
I ALSO love chocolate.
And seriously if I'm going to be honest...
My sugar habits were the worst!
I would crave sugar.
The more sugar I consumed.
The bigger the cravings got.
I was a BAKER.
A dessert maker.
Every meal ended with a sweet sugary treat!
And at my heaviest and unhealthiest I would do things like:
Make chocolate or caramel sauce and eat it on icecream.
Make unbaked chocolate slice and eat the mixture out of the bowl.
Visit the cafe two or three times a week and have a large caramel latte and cake or brownie.
Buy expensive chocolate balls and eat a packet a week.
Eat a king size block of chocolate a week.
Reading what I just wrote - I cannot believe I actually did that!
But hey - I'm being honest. 
And yes I did do that!
So to stop these unhealthy habits, I did three things.
I ate 'French' for cafe treat time.
I am so very lucky to have French cafes in my town that had healthier fruit/custard tarts, and Pain Aux raisin and almond friands and vegetarian lunch options.
I switched all chocolate to 60% or plus dark chocolate.
And I started making health balls for sweet snacks.
And guess what?
I no longer had that '1pm or 3pm crash need a nana nap'!
More weight disappeared!
And I was feeling healthier and healthier.
But don't get me wrong - I can still have a cake or sugar-sweet treat, on occasion if I choose to because this journey is not about going without.
It's about mindset and about control of unhealthy habits. 
But you know what - once I changed my chocolate/sugar habits, 
I rarely even want to eat those things anymore.

PART SIX - THE MILK AND DAIRY DILEMMA:
What did your mama say when your tummy was a bit upset?
'Have a glass of milk!'
I took that advice to the extreme.
Glass after glass.
LOTS of milk.
Yummy milk.
Soothing milk.
When your tum is sad drink milk...
Right?
Wrong!
I'm sure my calcium levels were AMAZING.
But I drank 6 litres of milk a week!!!
NOT KIDDING!
My sinus issues were out of control.
My losec and antacid use extreme.
Until I:
Addressed what I was eating and drinking...
That is as you know from reading this story what I did!
So I also decided - No dairy at all!
Extreme I know.
And oh my gosh I MISSED MILK SO MUCH.
It took months of 'adapting' to soy milk.
(I didn't like coconut, rice or almond)
But I adapt I did.
It really did take almost 90 days to consume soy milk happily.
I also reintroduced after 4 months of going without,
parmesan cheese and tasty cheese for cooking and salads.
And added goat or sheep milk cheeses.
I just don't have cheese and crackers 'all the time' like I used to.
Moderation is key.
For removing cows milk and reducing dairy consumption has helped my sinus issues.
Not fixed it.
But definitely helped it.
And I no longer use Losec.
Antacids very rarely.
My tum is AT LAST HAPPY!

PART SEVEN - THE DECISION TO REDUCE RED AND PROCESSED MEAT:
I have never really enjoyed eating a lot of meat.
And pre stomach scare that prompted this major diet overhaul, 
I was a person that ate red meat about 5 days of the week.
So it was not difficult to change my diet to a 'lesser meat' situation.
Chicken 
Seafood
Vegetables
Eggs
Pasta
Legumes
They are my go tos...
Pork,
Lamb
They are my 'on occasions'.
BIG FAT JUICY STEAK AND CHIPS MEAL
That's my treat!
Processed meat is not a favourite thing either.
I prefer chemical-free or old fashioned style processing.
It does cost a lot more to buy, but that's the healthy choice I make.

PART EIGHT - PORTION SIZE:
I don't count calories.
I don't follow a certain diet or fad.
For health, I believe you are what you eat and drink, 
and eating way too much compromises that.
So this is my mindset on that matter:
Downsize the servings.
Use a smaller dinner plate.
Don't have second helpings.
Leftovers are 'for lunch' the next day.
It really is the - Shall I have one piece of toast with my boiled eggs or Two? mentality.
Think before you eat.

PART NINE - EXERCISE:
I'm not a gym, weight lifting, runner, biker, skater or sporty type.
But I dance.
I walk.
I garden.
I don't sit around for long periods of time.
And I sing.
Did you know that singing actually burns calories?
So find the things that give you joy.
And just do that.

PART TEN - THAT 'FASTING' WORD!
There are many thoughts about fasting.
Some for.
Some against.
Some people say 'you MUST have breakfast'.
For me - I was never big on breakfast.
I listen to my body now.
Some days I fast.
Some days I don't.
Some days I will have a smoothie.
Or - just a cup of soy coffee.
Or - just water with lemon.
Some days I won't eat until noon.
Some days I have eggs for breakfast.
No rules.
It suits me.
It suits my lifestyle.
.
Here is a link to an interesting read about eating too much and fasting - thoughts about the 16-8 technique where you eat for 8 hours in a 24 hour period.
Which helps improve insulin levels and weight loss according to Dr Andrew Jenkinson.
https://www.facebook.com/SunliveBOP/posts/2641104959272042


PART ELEVEN - A HEALTH BUDDY AND PLATEAUS:
This journey I have shared has always been a solo one.
I've done it alone.
But recently I met a health mentor. Chris.
It was great.
I had plateaued in my weight loss.
I truly harboured a fear of scales.
And sometimes getting healthy was a lonely challenge.
I'm now in the 'Slimmerman' group on Facebook, which supports us on our journeys.
It's a neat place to share and see what others are doing and get ideas.
And also for Chris's positive energetic words and videos.
So I would recommend joining a group.
The support and friendships made are wonderful.

PART TWELVE - THAT FOE CALLED STRESS:
Stress and his best friend 'Worry' have always been part of my life.
I'm a wound kind of person.
I get on a mission.
I won't stop until the mission is complete.
I worry.
I worry about things that should not be my worry.
I'm probably a classic Type A personality.
So what to do about that?
I only really started to address this two years ago.
Because I got 'shingles'.
Another health challenge.
Another wake-up call!
Tackling this part of my journey is ongoing.
I am 70% better, calmer, now than ever before.
But I am 'constantly' working on it.
Sometimes I fall into old stress and worry habits, but try to quickly pull myself into line again.
𑂽
What works for your stress and worry?
For me it is:
Prayer
Meditation
Breathing techniques
Self -talking
Positivity
Gratitude
Mindfulness
Kindness
Focusing on personal growth.
𛲣
And when I do find myself in that cycle of worry, 
it usually is only for a day or two...
not weeks or months as before.
Because I use the above techniques.
One of my favourite sayings is - 'Not my monkey - not my circus'.
I say it to myself then look at the cause of the stress or worry and decide if it really is something I should be concerned about.
Is it a drama that I don't need to be involved in?
Is this part of my life journey or is it really someone else's?
I have learnt to step back.
Hold back words.
Evaluate.
Then react in a calm way - if at all.
Online guidance is freely available.
For worriers, anxiety sufferers, and for all sorts of personal growth.
You just have to connect with the people who resonate with your soul,
 and make time to learn.
The journey and power to wellness and health begins with yourself.


PART THIRTEEN - ENERGY DRINKS:
Watch this space
for the next update as
I continue to share my journey...


Tracey Lee Cassin

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