Getting Healthy In 13 Weeks
An experiment in breaking cyclical and recurring sickness.
January 18, 2014 - 8:00 am
Week 1 — Something’s Got To Give
As part of my “taking it easier” with my blog, over at According To Hoyt, I’ve been running ‘blasts from the past’ – i.e. posts a year or more old at least a day a week. (For instance on Tuesday I posted Jean Pierre Squirrel, from February 2011.)
The interesting thing going through the blog is seeing how many days I curtailed posting or posted briefer or weirder because I was ill.
Now I was aware of having been in indifferent health for the last ten years or so. It’s nothing really bad or spectacularly interesting, which is part of the issue, because if it were, I could take time off and not feel guilty. I confess I have found myself at various occasions fantasizing about a stay in the hospital. Which is stupid, because no one rests in the hospital. (What I need, of course, is a stay in a remote cottage for a few days. Even if I’m writing.) And I knew that my health got much worse in the last year. 2013 was the pits, at least since August or so. But it is not unusual for me to spend every third week “down.” – Usually with an ear infection or a throat thingy or some kind of stomach bug.
My friends have said for years that this is because I don’t listen to my body’s signals to slow down or stop, so it has to bring me to a complete stop by making me too sick to work.
This is part of the reason Charlie Martin and I (in collaboration) are doing a series on taming the work monster. Part of it is that I have way too much to do, and part of it is that it’s really hard to compartmentalize things when you work from home. Eventually when we sell the house and move, we’d like to get a place where the office is a distinct area. It was pretty much all of the attic in our last house, which meant if I came downstairs for dinner (which I did) I didn’t go up again. But now my office is half of the bedroom (and before someone imagines me cramped in a corner, the bedroom runs the full front of the house. We just couldn’t figure out what to do with a room that size. We don’t sleep that much.) This is convenient in terms of my getting up really early to work, or of my going to bed way after my husband, because I’m right there… It’s also contributing to a 24/7 work schedule, because I can think “Oh, I should write about that” and roll out of bed, and do so. There is no “I have to be dressed, as the sons might be roaming the house” and there isn’t (as in the other house) “the attic will be cold.”
Since I’ve been sick much more often in this house, taming the workmonster is part of the problem, definitely.
But I think there are other problems. For instance, since the election – for obvious reasons – I’ve let my exercise program slip. I used to walk four miles a day rain or shine, but it’s become a “I don’t have time” or “I don’t feel like it” more often than not.
As a consequence of that, as well as a consequence of my being somewhat – I think – depressed over the elections and eating a little more, my portion size has crept up.
Three years ago, I went on low carb and an exercise program, and I lost 45lbs. I still wasn’t svelte, mind, and should have lost another 30, but instead there was an hormonal disturbance (whichever one of you just said “in the Force” should think shame on himself) and the medication made me gain 15 pounds. (At about a pound a week.) This compounded with the election-depression to make me gain another ten pounds over the last year. Which in turn made it harder for me to go for walks and… you’re seeing the point, right?
So, the last year, I’ve slept really badly more often than not, and that in turn, coupled with the workmonster, has made me more prone to getting sick. At least this is my hypothesis.
I don’t like being sick. I have too much to do as is, and when I get sick, I then have to recoup on work and I get even more overworked, and I get into a vicious – and stupid – cycle. I have books to read, and articles and books to write. I also have a family I’d like to spend some time with before the young men leave the house. And I have a bunch of cleaning and remodeling waiting my feeling well enough to do it.
So, on the assumption that letting the exercise lapse led to both the weight gain and the disturbed sleep and perhaps even the touch of depression that makes it hard to concentrate and work efficiently, I have formulated the following plan:
- I will walk four miles a day unless weather REALLY does not permit it, in which case, I will work out for an hour on the elliptical or the treadmill, much as I hate it. (Even with the TV or a book, those are BORING.)
- I will try to get out of the house for at least half an hour, which means if the weather is too bad to walk and I don’t have any needed shopping I’ll go and buy a coffee at the nearby café.
- I will severely reduce my portions, and will, gradually, cut down on my consumption of dairy (which tends to be excessive because cheese is something I can grab en-passant while doing chores.)
- I will limit my consumption of meat except on weekends, particularly at night.
- I will read at least one fiction book a week, for pleasure (not counting books I’m deconstructing/using for research.)
- I will try to be in bed by ten thirty pm and up by six.
- I will limit my political-reading to one hour a day (this one will be tough.)
- I will offload some of my personal blog posts to friends and/or do repeats (this is already under way.)
- I will try to take at least a day off every two weeks, and leave it completely unscheduled. This means no house-cleaning, no ironing, unless I have a desperate hankering for it. And no research.
- I will try to take an art class. (This might seem counterintuitive, but my healthiest period I was taking two art classes a week – I think it’s because when I’m working on art I don’t think in words, so I rest.)
- If it’s too late to sign up for an art class – haven’t checked – I will take two hours a week to work on my art, regardless.
- When money permits (and it won’t be often. Two boys in college.) I will try to take a weekend away with my husband for the purpose of writing. We are one of those rare couples who work best in the same room, and going away and working gives us focus. As in “this is all we’re doing.” We go out to eat, and there’s no other obligations. (Though we usually make time for at least one dinner with friends.)
I’ll confess I’ve cheated, which is why this is week one. I’ve already implemented the food/exercise rules, and so far I’m sleeping much better. Now, since I know at 51 there’s also bound to be an hormonal factor, this might be a coincidence or not.
But my idea is that over the next 13 weeks I’ll report on my state of health vs. how well I’ve kept these rules, vs. my weight (I’d like to lose 55 lbs or so) vs. how well I feel (which is different from getting sick periodically.)
We’ll see how it works out. If this fails, then we move on to more serious search for causes of “why I get sick so often” and it might involve doctors!