by Shadra Bruce

When my mom died of cancer at the young age of 55 almost six years ago, you would have thought that it would have been a turning point for me in taking charge of my own health. Instead, her death spun me into a depression, and food was great solace. It wasn’t until a few of years ago when my doctor insisted I go on blood pressure medicine that I decided I better do something – nothing like waiting until the last minute!

I’ve spent the last several years researching and implementing new habits for being healthy. I don’t believe in taking drugs and hate thinking that the only way to lose weight and get healthy is to invest in a program, buy expensive foods, or have surgery – although I do believe that each woman is different and that those methods can work for others. I’ve been lucky to have Dave – husband, friend, and brilliant creator of edible, healthy dishes – supporting my efforts every step of the way, reading labels, making changes, and creating recipes that won’t drive me straight into a box of Oreos.

I have a long way to go – my starting point was being overweight, depressed about my mother’s death, and having regular anxiety attacks that occasionally sent me to the hospital thinking I was having a heart attack.

I still struggle with my weight, but what I’ve discovered is that being healthy is less about size and more about your overall choices; less about a number on a scale and more about making changes that become habits and striving for balance. I still want to lose weight, but I’m easier on myself about the number on the scale, understanding that it took a number of years to gain, so it will probably take twice as many to lose. But by changing slowly, and making every change a habit, I have had measurable results:

  • Blood pressure. I was truly embarrassed – and scared – when, at age 36 my doctor put me on blood pressure pills because my blood pressure was so high, but by making serious changes to my diet and regularly exercising, I have been off the blood pressure meds for over a year, and my blood pressure typically stays around 115/65. I can live with that!
  • Weight. I haven’t lost all that I want, but in the last year, I did manage to lose 50 pounds with simple diet & exercise changes.
  • Energy. The worst part about not being healthy is lack of energy. It’s like a domino effect. You don’t feel good, so you don’t do active things. You don’t do active things, you gain more weight, and you feel worse. Even the smallest changes – walking my daughter to school in the morning instead of waiting for the bus, or walking after dinner instead of plopping in front of the TV – immediately adds more energy to do more, and it’s like a domino effect in reverse. The more active you are, the more you feel like being active. My energy level has easily tripled simply by making easy-to-stick-to changes.
  • There have been other, less expected but utterly wonderful results from my efforts, too.
    • I had a hysterectomy in 2008, and I’ve been able to cut in half the amount of hormone replacement therapy I take.
    • My hair, which had been thinning out and losing its luster, is healthier and thicker. My nails are much stronger too.
    • Dave & the kids are willingly making the changes with me, so we’re all getting healthier!

It is NEVER too late to start loving yourself a little better and making changes that will make a difference.