Have you ever followed a path thinking you were on the right track only to wake up one day and realize you had made several wrong turns, and you were nowhere near where you wanted to be?
Two years ago, I experienced a health crisis that forever changed my definition of what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. Up until then, I thought all it took to be healthy was to exercise, take a few supplements, don’t smoke, walk in peace (with God, yourself, and others), and eat so that you kept your weight under control.
Then suddenly, I realized that the healthy living framework I had painstakingly developed over the previous 28 years was faulty. It wasn’t all wrong; much about it was right.
But certain elements that are an essential part of a long term strategy for health and wellness were missing. Only I didn’t know, and what you don’t know (and aren’t aware of) can come back to bite you. That’s equally true of wrong assumptions. And I made a few of those, too.
If I had had time to think about it, I would have been devastated. But I didn’t. I was too busy trying to survive the crisis that unfolded in the space of two weeks in mid-October 2017, just as I turned 60.
I don’t remember much about my 60th birthday other than a host of Facebook friends wishing me a Happy Birthday (which I always love and appreciate every year!) and a few saying, “Welcome to the club!” I didn’t have to ask what they meant. I knew. I’m now a proud member of the 7th Decade Club!
I really don’t mind getting older, but my body is taking it badly! —Unknown1
How My Journey Began
My journey began in 1989 when, in a moment of desperation, I called out to God to help me lose weight. I was 31 and relatively healthy, but I weighed 165 pounds, and at 5′ 2″, obese and clueless as to what to do about it.
Oh, I knew the age-old and much-touted weight-loss formula: Eat fewer calories than you burn and presto! Weight loss success! Arguably, it was how I walked off 30 pounds in 31 days as a teenager in 1973.
But I was no longer 15 years old. I was now a single adult with a full-time sedentary office job. I also led worship at my church, which meant trying to fit regular exercise into my schedule was hit and miss (and mostly miss)!
So I needed a new strategy. I also needed something else: I needed to learn about health and nutrition. I didn’t know much back then, but I was reasonably certain that it wasn’t good to come home from church and eat a bag of Ruffles potato chips dipped in Miracle Whip followed by a bowl of ice cream!
If you don’t have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking. James 1:5 VOICE
Over time, God answered my prayer, and by 2002 I had lost 50 pounds.
How? Initially, I loosely followed a low-fat diet. But that led to blood sugar issues. So I switched to a low-carbohydrate eating plan. I also became an avid bicyclist, logging over 30k miles on my Bridgestone XO2 touring bike. After I left corporate America and started my own business, I joined a gym and added strength training to my regimen.
Going from struggle to weight-loss success was sweet. And for the first time in a long time, I loved how I looked in the mirror. But being slim, trim, and fit doesn’t necessarily mean that you are healthy at the cellular level. And I wasn’t. So while I blissfully celebrated my 28-inch waistline, cracks were forming in my foundation.
There was also another issue about to come to light: The lifestyle that got me into the best shape of my life was unsustainable. Always remember that whatever you do that gets you there, will be what is required to KEEP you there.
David and I met and married in 20062, then moved to Texas in early 2008 to help my parents with their apartment complex. A few months later, we bought them out.
From day one, the business was all-consuming, stretching us to our limits often. Only by the grace of God did we survive. Even so, over time, the relentless stress, lack of regular exercise, and less-than-optimal diet took their toll.3
The first symptom that showed up was my old not-so-welcome friend, insomnia, which I had struggled with off and on since my 30’s. At about the same time, my blood pressure started to spike randomly.
Hypertension is often referred to as the silent killer because most people don’t know they have it. Not me! If my blood pressure ever goes above 140/80, I feel it. Only, it took a visit to the ER with my systolic pressure rising above 165 before I did anything about it.
That’s when I learned I was hypothyroid and low on other hormones. So a nurse practitioner put me on 10 mg Lisinopril (a blood pressure med), Nature Throid (a natural thyroid medication), Lorazepam (a benzodiazepine) for sleep, and a bio-identical compound hormone replacement cream.
While I wasn’t happy about being on FOUR prescription medications, they provided much-needed relief — something I had to have to continue to function, which was critical since, by that time (2015), we were preparing to sell the business.
Unfortunately, the relief was only temporary, because, in the summer of 2017, my blood pressure began spiking again, and I started experiencing unusual fatigue. So I went back to the doctor. Blood work revealed that I needed to DOUBLE my thyroid med. Ugh!
Why is this happening? It doesn’t make any sense!
In May of 2016, we sold the apartments and relocated to Rhome. After the move, my stress levels plummeted. Now that I was at home most of the time, I could regularly walk and exercise on my Nautilus Recumbent Bike. I could also cook more and try out recipes in my new favorite cookbook, Run Fast. Eat Slow., which I wrote about in a previous post.
Translation: I expected my health to improve, not get worse.
I also wasn’t buying into the idea that this was happening simply because I was getting older. Sorry, but in my book, 60 isn’t old! So, as we say in Texas, that dog won’t hunt!
Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans. —Allen Saunders, Publishers Syndicate
Suddenly Everything Changed
The event that changed everything was not supposed to have even been an event! But it was. And I believe it was by divine design. Why? Because I was praying!
As I sit here writing this from the other side of the crisis, I can tell you unequivocally: I would never have experienced my breakthrough had it not been for the Lord.
So if you’re going through something right now, remember: If you’re praying, He’s working! It may not feel like it. It may not look like it. But rest assured — if you’ve committed your situation to Him, He’s working on it (and you too, most likely)!
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their distress and troubles. Psalm 34:17 AMPC
[What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living! Psalm 27:13 AMPC
What was the event? I couldn’t get a refill for Nature Throid. That meant I HAD to switch to another thyroid med. And THAT turned out to be the event that triggered a chain of events that led to four trips to urgent care within those now-infamous two weeks.
On the third trip, sleep-deprived and suffering from elevated blood pressure to the point that David had to take me, I met Natashia Dobbins, D.O. What a Godsend!
During the examination, she concluded that I needed to DOUBLE my blood pressure med dosage and add a diuretic, “But this is only temporary — until we can get this fixed!” Then, as she was exiting the room, she said rather offhandedly, “I wonder if we need to check your potassium and electrolyte levels?”
Bingo! I lit up on the inside like a Christmas tree! While I couldn’t have explained it, I sensed that she had just handed me the key that would unlock the mystery as to WHY this was happening.
And I was right!
The Day Food Became My Medicine
As soon as I got home from the clinic, I grabbed my iPad and searched for potassium. It didn’t take long to see the problem: MANY potassium-rich foods were off-limits for me and had been for years because they are higher in carbohydrates.
At that moment, however, counting net carbs was the last thing on my mind. I was in crisis mode, and once I learned that potassium plays a vital role in regulating fluid balance and may help lower blood pressure, I was all in!
That afternoon, I drove to Walmart, dropped off my new prescription at the pharmacy, then loaded up my cart with POM (pomegranate) juice, avocados, potatoes, tomatoes, raisins, and coconut water! I was chugging POM juice before I left the parking lot!
Three days later, my blood pressure began to stabilize. Within three months, I had eliminated the diuretic and was back to the original dosage (10 mg) of Lisinopril. By early summer, I was only taking 2.5 mg, and only as needed, which wasn’t much.
It’s been two years since Dr. Dobbins rocked my world with her “I wonder…” statement about potassium. While I still struggle somewhat with insomnia, occasional blood pressure spikes, and (recently) aggravating sinus issues, I’m back to the 32.5 mg dosage of Nature Throid that I was taking four years ago.
But that’s it other than minimal usage of the hormone replacement cream. I am off ALL other prescription meds!4
How did I do it? Just add a handful of potassium-rich foods to my diet? Ha! I wish it had been that easy. Recognizing you have nutritional deficiencies is one thing, addressing them is another, which is where Dr. Dobbins’ role as my health care partner was pivotal.5
In between appointments, I did research and made dietary and lifestyle changes. Then every few months, I would do new lab work, we would meet to discuss the results and the strategy forward, and she would adjust my prescriptions accordingly. I don’t know who was more thrilled whenever I was able to reduce or eliminate a drug, her or me.
As wonderful as she was to work with, it’s important to point out that even though I was under her care, I was the one in the driver’s seat, and had I not taken charge of my health by choosing to address the root cause of my condition nutritionally, it would not have been dealt with at all.
He who is loose and slack in his work is brother to him who is a destroyer and he who does not use his endeavors to heal himself is brother to him who commits suicide. Proverbs 18:9 AMPC
I Have My Life Back
It’s now July of 2020, nine months later, and my blood pressure this morning was 110/64. That isn’t a one-off; it’s THIS or close to it most mornings. And I haven’t taken any Lisinopril in weeks.
Besides my blood pressure stabilizing, what other benefits have I seen as a result of my diet and lifestyle changes?
- I’m sleeping better, and that means more energy and less brain-fog.
- The chronic pain, tenderness, and inflammation in my shoulders and upper back are gone.
- The mild dizziness I’ve dealt with for years is much improved.
- My immune system is better. I know that because the last couple of times I had a cold, the symptoms were milder, and I recovered more quickly.
- I’m experiencing more peace and calmness and enjoying my new pace of life.
- We’re saving money! Health care is expensive, even with insurance.6
Simply put, I have my life back!
Was it easy? Not even a little. It was a slow, sometimes discouraging process because often, it was two steps forward and one step back. It still is, by the way. But progress is a powerful motivator, and results generate momentum.
…wisdom is proved right by all its results. Luke 7:35 NOG
So yes, I’m quite passionate about all this healthy living stuff. And that brings me to the point of this post.
Why share all this with you? I believe that information combined with inspiration can lead to transformation.
Lifestyle is all about choices. My hope and prayer is that what I share here on my blog will encourage and enable you to make good choices for your NOW as well as your LATER.
I’m convinced I suffered needlessly for over two years, and if I can warn you by informing you, then perhaps I can help you be better prepared to navigate YOUR aging challenges. Trust me, ready or not, they WILL come.
Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity (idols and idolatry); and restore me to vigorous life and health in Your ways. Psalm 119:37 AMPC
My New Approach to Healthy Living
Now that you know my story, I want to use the remainder of this post to share a condensed version of what I’ve learned.
I said earlier that certain elements that are an essential part of a long term strategy for health and wellness were missing. Well, they aren’t anymore. I’ve filled in what was missing, revamped others, and the result is a new, more holistic approach to healthy living made up of seven essential elements.
Note: The following includes updates as of 7/15/2020.
1. FOOD first and foremost!
Food is our foundation. It’s our fuel for life and health. We don’t just need calories — we need nutrition for our 30 trillion cells to function.
For 28 years, I focused on what NOT to eat rather than what TO eat. That was a mistake. While it’s important to minimize sugar, trans fat, and foods that contain mostly empty calories, it’s even more important to choose nutrient-dense foods that provide the necessary building blocks for the body to keep itself healthy. And there are many!
Here’s a great example: Avocados
Avocados are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, specifically magnesium and potassium. They are high in fiber and full of healthy fats, which means they help you fill-up. But there’s a bonus: They act as a direct delivery system, helping your body to absorb not only the nutrients in them, but in other foods you eat in the same meal.7
Want more examples? Then check out this article: The 100 Healthiest Foods on the Planet.
2. Supplement second!
I enthusiastically entered the world of nutritional supplements during my perimenopausal years in 2001 after I began watching Doug Kaufmann’s Know the Cause television show. That’s when I learned about probiotics and the importance of gut health. It was a game-changer for me.
However, I missed it here too, because I wrongly assumed that once I had corrected my microbiome (and got the great results I did), that was ALL I needed to do to keep myself healthy. The truth was, fixing my gut health was the FIRST step, not the ONLY step.
I also made the same mistake that many people make: I focused on supplements rather than food. That’s why I say supplement second. Spend your money FIRST on healthy whole foods, then fill in what you can’t get (or don’t want to), from supplements — in that order.
Someone asked recently, if I could only afford three supplements, what would they be? Probiotics, magnesium8, and vitamin D3. And just in case you’re curious, my number four is a liquid omega-3 product (because I don’t eat enough fish).
I buy many of our supplements, along with a few foods and household products, from Vitacost. If you join their mailing list, they will send you discounts every week or two. I love saving money! I also love the fact that I can set up a list of favorite products, which makes re-ordering easy. Orders over $49 ship free, and they usually arrive in 2-3 business days.
Yes, I also buy supplements from Amazon and even have a few items on Subscribe and Save. But sometimes I can get those SAME PRODUCTS from Vitacost for LESS, especially if I have a 15% coupon. Check ‘em out!
3. Exercise for energy and longevity!
You may not want to hear this, but God created us to MOVE. And when we don’t, lots of bad things begin to happen. Aging and lack of exercise take a terrible toll on your lean muscle mass and metabolism. It also leaves you with diminished energy. While, according to Dr. Mark Hyman, “you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet,” you most definitely CAN exercise your way out of low energy and a host of other health problems.
Don’t want to be a bodybuilder? Me, neither. But you don’t have to be to benefit from exercise. You don’t even have to walk, run, lift weights, or work out the way that most people think. Just move! I’m reading a book right now on stretching, and yes, even THAT is more helpful than you might think, especially as you age.
But be careful. If you haven’t moved much lately, then start slow and build up. The last thing you want is to hurt yourself. And always check with a healthcare professional before starting an exercise routine if you have a health condition.
4. Drink water like there may be NONE tomorrow!
Do you have any idea how vitally important water is for our health? I didn’t until I began researching it a few months ago. I mean, we all know that we have to have water to live. But did you know that water is the single most important nutrient and that it’s involved in every function of our bodies?9
To get a good picture (pun intended) of the various important functions that water performs in our bodies, take a look at the infographic below10.
One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself amidst COVID-19 and beyond is to drink plenty of water. It is essential for long-term health and wellness.
5. Stress less!
But the good news is, as Christians in relationship with our grace-giving, peace-loving God, we have a Source of stress management that far exceeds anything this world has to offer.
So why, as sold-out, Jesus-loving Christians do we continue to suffer from the effects of stress-filled lives? There are many reasons, but for now, I only want to address one: We don’t take stress seriously.
Of all the mistakes I made regarding my health, THIS is by far the worst one.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
I have no way to measure how much stress and its numerous physiological consequences undermined my health through the years; all I know is it was a LOT.
In future posts, I will dig deeper into this topic. For now, though, here are two things that have helped me stress less:
First, I believe the two greatest peace-stealers in our western culture are hurry and worry. So daily, I practice SLOWING DOWN, pacing myself, and praying about EVERYTHING that unsettles my mind.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 TLB
Second, I repented of breaking the Sabbath. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean I had to repent for not going to church or worshiping God. That’s not what keeping the Sabbath means.
Sabbath means cease. One day a week, we are commanded by God to stop whatever we have been doing the previous six days and take a break. Cease and desist! STOP and REST!
If you don’t get anything else from this post, I hope and pray you get this: You not only have God’s permission, you have His command: Thou shalt TAKE A DAY OFF!
Pastor Robert Morris, preached an excellent message on the Sabbath earlier this year. Click below to watch it now (or come back and watch it on your day off)!
6. Sleep more!
If there was ever a time we all need to be getting plenty of restful, rejuvenating, restorative sleep, it’s now. Why? According to the article, Sleep Guidelines during the COVID-19 Pandemic, by the National Sleep Foundation, four reasons:
- Sleep empowers an effective immune system.
- Sleep heightens brain function.
- Sleep enhances mood.
- Sleep improves mental health.
Beyond why sleep is essential, the article also includes the section, Our Guidelines to Sleeping Well During the COVID-19 Outbreak. Timely information, indeed.
I’ll have a lot more to say about sleep in future posts. For now, however, I’ll only refer you to that article, lest you start nodding off due to the length of this one.
7. Attain and maintain a healthy weight!
Notice that I’ve put this last in the list. There’s a reason for that. I believe that if you embrace the FIRST six, this one will be a lot easier. It’s even possible that it will happen with little to no extra effort on your part, kind of like buy-six-get-one-free. Who wouldn’t want a deal like that?
Another reason I have this last is because I want to make it clear: I believe each of the other six elements are just as important to our overall health as arriving at and maintaining a healthy weight. As I stated earlier, for many years, I thought a healthy weight automatically meant a healthy body. Unfortunately, that is NOT always the case.
So HOW do you attain and maintain a healthy weight? As I’m sure you know by now: There are MANY factors involved in weight loss and metabolism. It’s also more than calories in versus calories out. If it were that straight forward, many of us would already be at our goal weight, and a few folks would be zillionaires for having written the book(s) that mapped out the calorie-in-calorie-out formula that saved the rest of us the trouble of figuring it out.
Do calories count? Of course, they do. But if you think that a 100-calorie serving of broccoli metabolizes in your body the same way as a 100-calorie cookie, then you are seriously fooling yourself.
Oh, and if you think you have to give up taste for the sake of eating healthy, then let me set the record straight: I savor the food I eat. Every meal is a delicious, satisfying feast. And my body is loving it as much as my taste buds!
Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:5 NKJV
The Journey Continues
Let me bottom-line this:
I want to live a lifestyle that promotes health and prevents disease so that I can experience the highest quality of life possible — for as long as possible.
Is that what you want? I have to believe you do (otherwise, you would have stopped reading long ago).
With that said, let’s do a little test: On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the healthiest, how would you rate your health at this very moment?
A month after I turned 60, I would have rated mine 4, and that might have been a generous assessment. Now, almost three years later, I’m a solid 7, and some days, even an 8!
Does that make me an expert on healthy living? Not at all. I don’t even pretend to be. It does, however, qualify me to offer you something that might be the best thing anyone can. And what is that?
If you gave yourself a relatively high number on the little test above, this might not mean much to you. But if you didn’t — and this is especially true if, like me, you’re in the 7th Decade Club or beyond — then hope is everything.
Hope sees possibilities as probabilities. Hope says even though I’ve been walking through some tough stuff, I’m not giving up. Better days are ahead!
No, I don’t have ALL the answers, but I have SOME answers. And that, my friend, is what this blog is all about.
Which brings me to my last question: Want to tag along as I continue on my journey to healthy living? If so, then please follow my blog if you haven’t done so already.
Let’s learn together. Let’s do this together! 🙂
The information on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Related Posts and Other Links:
- I saw this on Facebook, but couldn’t find who said it even after a Google search. So if you know who did, please let me know. I like to cite my sources.
- There’s quite a story behind how we met. For more, go to my About page.
- What do you do for fun in west Texas? Go out to eat! Your choices are either a Skeets hamburger or Mexican food!
- I continue to refill Lisinopril as needed because it would be foolish of me NOT to have it for whenever water, food, and deep breathing don’t bring down my BP.
- Could I have worked with a more conventional medical professional? Yes, because she only ordered standard thyroid blood tests. But it was helpful to have her support my quest to address the underlying problem rather than rely on medications to manage symptoms indefinitely. She also helped me wean off Lorazepam and confirmed that Melatonin was a viable substitute.
- According to this article at The Commonwealth Fund, “The [USA] leads the world in health care spending, but its residents are sicker and more likely to die of preventable conditions than those in other wealthy countries.”
- Reference: In Case You Need a Reason to Eat More Avocado – Sept. 26, 2017, Cedars-Sinai Staff
- If you click the link, it’ll take you to the liquid magnesium product that I use. I’ve been using it for over a year and highly recommend it. The 16-ounce bottle lasts me several months.
- Don Colbert, The Seven Pillars of Health, 1st ed. (Lake Mary, FL: Siloam, 2007), 7, Kindle.
- The article, The Water in You: Water and the Human Body, is provided by the U.S. Geological Survey and is an easy-read with links to a LOT of information. I highly recommend you check it out!