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Why Good Health is Worth the Work: Weight + Mental Health

It all started before I was diagnosed with celiac disease 3 years ago. I was gaining a lot of weight and my health was failing, but I didn’t know why. I ate the same amount as everyone else, but I just kept gaining weight. I was bloated all the time, especially in my stomach. I was exhausted and I caught every cold that came along. During this period I had a general feeling of ill health, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Because my health was failing me so much, I decided to take up running, even though I’d never been a runner before. I took a running class, which is the only way that I could have done it. In the class, we slowly increased intervals of running and shortened intervals of walking.

But I was still gaining weight and it didn’t feel good. All the weight gain was happening in my mid-section. I remember one day I went to a lecture where they had those really small folding chairs. I could barely make my bloated body fit into the seat and my hips were touching people on either side of me. I was so uncomfortable. I was so visibly uncomfortable just trying to make myself fit into the seat that the friend I was with asked me if I was okay. I said, “Yes.” But that wasn’t true. I felt like a whale. I was uncomfortable in my seat, but more importantly, I was uncomfortable in my bloated body.

I remember during that time a regular thought that would pop into my head was, “You’re the biggest person in the room.”  Which was true sometimes and not true other times, but I still felt like the biggest one, because I was too big for me. Sometimes it would hurt to bend my fingers because my hands were so bloated. If you know me at all, you know that making things with my hands is pretty much my greatest love in life, but my weight and sickness were affecting my lifestyle and the activities I loved.

IMG_0660-1024x1024If you compare my photo from today (with no makeup and bedhead), which is at the top and this photo from a few years ago before I was healthy it’s strange to see all the changes and some are unexpected. Like my shoulders are MUCH bigger now than they were then, but I have more of a waist now than I did then. And, I don’t know about you, but I can feel my inner sass oozing out of the photo from today, but back then I couldn’t even pretend I was feeling great because I wasn’t.

After a lot of medical appointments and tests I found out I had celiac disease and after a long time of experimenting with my diet I was able to find foods that worked (I am still sorting out some of the foods I can and cannot eat, but I’m much closer to knowing what works for me than I was a few years ago). Then I was in a car accident and my pelvis was twisted. It was determined that my legs were different lengths and they found that my neck was a mess. Even now, after all the care I’ve had, I still have some problems in my neck and pelvis. I have arthritis and I have a couple of spots where the discs in between the vertebra are thinner and deteriorating.

Weight, Arthritis + Exercise

I’ve done tons of reading about arthritis and ways to minimize or prevent further damage and one of the biggest ways that I have found is through exercise. It helps on a number of levels. The more flexibility and mobility you have, the more it prevents hardening of arthritic areas and further deterioration. Then there is the issue of weight. If you have a smaller frame, you are putting less strain on your body, and you will have less severe arthritis than you would have if your frame was larger.

It turns out that people with celiac disease have a higher chance of developing conditions like arthritis, which is related to chronic inflammation. I was chronically inflamed for most of my life. Now I manage my inflammation with diet and I manage my bone and muscle health with exercise, but exercise is so much more than just having a healthy happy body. It’s also about having a healthy mind.

Depression + Exercise

Did you see this article that talks about depression and working out? It’s pretty interesting. It turns out that the most depressed population of people are women ages 42 to 52 (Hello midlife crisis!). When women were rated by their exercise levels, some interesting results popped out. It turns out that women who exercise have less issues with depression and those that exercise more intensively had little to no depression. In other words, higher levels of exercise actually prevents depression! Now, we’ve all heard people say they feel better when exercising regularly, but this is actual evidence of that fact.

So, yes, you can exercise to have the most fit frame. You can focus on exercise to lose a few pounds and fit into societal standards of beauty, but I think these reason won’t keep you exercising. At least for me, my vanity is not enough of a reason to stick with exercise, but …

I am interested in being able to walk and move into old age.
I am interested in living the best quality of life I can now and in the future and I am into feeling happy and healthy.
I choose to respect myself and my body in these ways.
These are the reasons I exercise.
It’s a lot of work.
It’s a big commitment, but I am worth it.

How about you? Are you happy? Are you bloated? How do you feel in your body? Are you worth the effort of exercise? Do you value yourself enough to make your health a priority?

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