It’s More than Food

Sunflower
Gardening has been shown to reduce stress.

I have been grain free since augusts 2013, following the Paleo diet since Jan 2014 and on the autoimmune protocol since Feb of 2014. Have I had some positive things happen? You bet. I’m no longer taking any prescription pills, I am no longer slathering myself with synthetic moisturizers, When I do experience dry skin I use  homemade lotions, I’ve lost 15 lbs, and my energy levels have increased. Yes, I’m very happy with the results but I still have a ways to go.

Sunflower
Just looking at nature can reduce stress

 

I feel like I have done all I can with diet. I eat very clean and if I have a cheat (except for the one time in Iowa at a microbrew…)it still falls in the Paleo camp. I’m comfortable eating the way I eat, I don’t miss the things I use to crave. Once I saw the results and felt the energy of eating this way there is no going back for me! But I have hit a plateau. It seems like with everything you do eventually your body gets use to it and seems to stop, plateau, pause. Like most of you when you experience a plateau and get frustrated, I’m am frustrated. My weight has stabilized  and I’m not losing anymore fat and the puffiness in my eyelids and under my eyes have not changed at all since this journey really got roc’n. I feel stuck. I know I have read that even with the best diet you can’t heal unless you address the other aspects of your life.

 

In all of the books I have read about autoimmune, paleo, hormones and clean eating they all touch on life style. They all say that besides eating paleo you need to instigate some lifestyle changes in order to heal. Things like making sure you get enough sleep, exercise and keeping your stress level under control. Your stress level? Really? Well hello! Have you been out in the world lately? Stress and reasons to be stressed are everywhere. Stress and being stressed has been a constant for me for as long as I can remember. There are 2 times in my adult life where I remember not feeling constantly stressed out. The first was when I moved home to finish college because I saw the financial benefit. Within weeks of moving home I lost weight, had a better outlook on life and started being a person  that people wanted to be around. The second time I felt that way was again when I moved home with my boys while going through a divorce. Both of those times, I feel, it was the sense of feeling safe, I knew no real harm could come to me while I lived with my parents. For those months I lived at home I thrived. Now, I’m not saying everyone should move back in with their parents to balance the stress in their lives, I’m just saying that I know the power of stress on my life.

I’ve been out on my own for over 5 years, raising kids, having a job and dealing with autoimmune diseases. I found it hard to balance my stress, So I didn’t. Stress became my identity and my excuse. I can’t do (fill in the blank), I’m too stressed, or that will stress me too much. Yet everything I did brought on more stress. One of the ways I told myself I was reducing my stress was by running, oh and did I run. In one year I did 4 half marathons, 1 full marathon and a triathlon. To an athlete that may not seem like a lot but for me it was too much. I really struggled with my training and was constantly thinking about how I needed to train and guilt tripping myself if I missed a training session. It was not fun. After another year of this I quit running thinking “I will no longer be stressed because I won’t have that training schedule hanging on my fridge taunting me when I miss a training session.

It worked for a while but then I began to fill that time with stressful activities. I started trying to do everything I could think of at work to make myself stand out. I didn’t say no to anything that was asked of me. I do like being a team player. I started becoming so obsessed with what I had to do for work that I took no time for myself. The fledgling social life I was developing died. I felt sick to my stomach guilty if I wasn’t working on a project for work or reading some professional journal. Even now that I’m on summer break I’m beating myself up for not having the things done I said I’d have done.

So I’ve gone back and reread the articles on stress and I’m starting to take baby steps toward balancing my stress levels. When you read the paleo literature most list five things to tweak beyond you diet. Sleep, exercise, stress, getting outside, and support or a social life. I’ve got the sleep thing down, I typically get 7-9 hours a night, I have been able to make that a priority. It’s the next four that vex me. So I picked that one that vexes me the most, stress. After reading the literature on stress, gentle exercise is one way to reduce stress so I have started running again, this time with a different mind set. I don’t have to follow a training plan I just need to run. Oh, and look, by running I’m covering 2 more areas of the paleo lifestyle, exercise, and getting outside. Hmm and if I ran a 5k or two with some friends I will have covered the last one, support or social life. Have I noticed a difference? Yes, I was able to take time for myself and write this post.

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