Part 3: What are the factors that cause damage to our well-being?Tweet
The first time I took leave from work because of my mental health, I went into solution mode. I needed a fix that would see me making a comeback. But I was determined to do this it right. I needed to be more than just functional, I needed to be even more mentally robust than ever.
How was I going to pull that off? After much research and a strong desire to move forward, I found the magic pill. I like to call it mother nature’s medication.
So, what is this smoking gun? Exercise, accompanied by a clean diet. When I started to apply what I had learned, I found that my mental illness, an anxiety disorder, was so much more manageable. In fact, adopting a healthy lifestyle was so effective at alleviating my symptoms that I was able to return to work.
While this was no doubt effective, what it wasn’t was a cure. All I needed to do to find this out was to go back to what exacerbated my mental illness in the first place – a lifestyle of sitting and eating the Western diet. Fast food and sugar can be considered staples in this diet.
What I learned from my obsessive research was surprising. My weight, it turns out, was a major factor in,, not only my mental health decline, but also to my overall health in general.
This fact was nothing short of a revelation for me. Never before had I given my excess weight any thought, much less seeing it as a clinical health condition. This perspective changed everything.
Being overweight was a health condition? Learning this fact changed the way I saw my weight, my mental health and my physical health. The only thoughts I did have about my weight was a sense of self-consciousness.
Thankfully for me, science took the shame associated with my weight and made it seem like it was fixable, Fortunately, it is indeed something one can fix. In my mind, I began to see that getting into shape was merely the treatment plan.
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With the majority of the shame out of the way, I was free to tackle my generalized anxiety disorder head on. I was motivated by this notion that I had a medical problem, not a social one. With that, I set out to improve my health, not to lose weight. Looking at it as “improving my health” rather than “losing weight” alleviated all the stress and social pressures that come with self-improvement.
So, was my weight all my fault? I think my answer to this question is a “yes” and a “no.” I am a firm believer that self-improvement is ultimately our responsibility. However, science tells us that the Western diet is full of addictive properties. Substances like sugar are but one of many. Some studies indicate that sugar is more addictive than cocaine, an illegal street drug.
What does this mean? It means that I had an addiction and as with other addictions, come dire consequences. With that said, I don’t believe in using the old, “I can’t help it, I have an addiction. line. In my view, this statement is more damaging than the actual disease. Why? Well, because it gives us license to continue to do major damage to our well-being. It’s a slow burn that eats away at our mind, body and soul.
As someone with a background in addictions, I know that addictions are among some of the toughest challenges a person can face. I also understand that because they are so hard to overcome, it can be perceived as easier to continue on that path. However, as we age and continue to live a lifestyle that feeds our addiction, we are often faced with an ever-increasing amount of health problems. Diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, to name a few. And – you guessed it – higher rates of mental illness.
Sure, we may have an addiction, but we have no excuse not to try, not when this lifestyle is causing so much damage to our well-being. Additionally, I firmly believe that the only way we truly fail is if we give up. Even then, we can get back on that horse and try again. You may find it helpful to ask yourself:
- What are the consequences of continuing this way of life? Write down as many as you can think of.
- What if I looked at my unhealthy lifestyle as a medical condition instead of seeing it as socially shameful? (change your perspective).
- What will the positive outcomes look like as I make my way to wellness?
- What are my end goals? Realize that this journey is incremental – which is another word for progress.
- Lastly, who else will benefit from my journey?
Please, be kind to yourself. Your battle is hard enough. While it’s not a simple task, go slow and with purpose, and never lose sight of why you are doing this. You don’t want only to lose weight; you, more importantly, want to be well.
This adventure in re-discover we are on will definitely help minimize the damage to our well-being. And as we go down the road to mental wellness, we will start to notice that we are stronger, not only physically, but mentally too. You can do this!
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