Health. It’s a cliche resolution, but this year I want to take note of the weaknesses in my health and make changes to my lifestyle to improve it. Everyone wants to eat less, move more, and lose a few pounds – but my physique is not my focus this year. I’ve tried that – the dieting, the brutal workouts, the self-critique and anxiety – and it worked..until it didn’t.
This year I’m focusing on where I don’t feel healthy. My first major issue was headaches. I used to get these frequent, excruciating, torturous headaches that would make it nearly impossible to get out of bed, let alone work or study. Ibuprofen to the rescue; sometimes 2, but more like 4, 6, 8, 10 in a day. If felt like my head would literally explode if I didn’t hold it down and I would often get sick to my stomach. I even went to the emergency room last winter. I didn’t really know what to do about it, long term, so I depended on my high doses of ibuprofen and hoped for the best.
The second major issue is sleep. I toss and turn for hours before falling asleep. My mind is just on super speed all night and it makes it impossible to feel well-rested in the morning.
I realized there could be a different, more holistic, approach to my issues – naturopathy. My mum had mentioned she was going to start seeing one and I thought, “Hey, I want to try that.” At my first appointment I told her all about the headaches and the sleep issues. She probed for more details on my symptoms and my lifestyle habits. I was honest and mentioned that I had a caffeine & diet coke habit that was hard to beat. Coffee fueled me. I would wake up, drink a cup, get ready then drink a cup with breakfast, get a cup to take to morning class, get a cup before the second class, get another cup during the break if the class was long, go home unwind with a cup, have another cup after dinner. Insane, I know!
My naturopath broke the bad news as gently as she could – I needed to eliminate aspertame from my diet – and I needed to limit my coffee intake to AM only. These may seem like “obvious” changes I should have made a long time ago, but when you’re putting that stuff in your body day in, day out, you don’t think it could possibly be hurting you. She also prepared a herbal mixture to take daily, along with some vitamins.
The first couple weeks I put reminders on my phone to check off as I got through one day at a time without coffee after noon, diet coke, and gum (aspertame galore!). I took it one day at a time, and I did have 2 or 3 days when I indulged in a diet coke (I sure did pay for it the next day), but it got easier. Now, it’s pretty much automatic. If someone offers me a piece of gum, I say, “No, thank you”. And when I’m at a restaurant, I got for Perrier or water.
The question is, did it work?
Yes. My headaches are not nearly as frequent or intense as they used to be. I get my usual PMS headaches, but other than that I only experienced 2 other days with headaches. Life without ever-looming headaches is a vast improvement to my daily functioning. I’m more alert and focused. I’m less stressed and depressed. I sleep better (not for as long as I should, but that’s my own doing).
So far, all the changes have been positive and I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing much. I still enjoy my morning cup of coffee, and now I chew “pur gum”, an aspertame-free brand found at most health food stores – and I was lucky enough to find it during a 2 for 1 sale at Rachelle-Bery in Montreal over the winter break.