Maria’s Wellness Warrior Story: A Complete Lifestyle Change For Better Health
How did I get here and why?
I blame a phone conversation with my mother in 2010. I was 36 years old then. Mom asked if I was dating anyone, if I had thought of how my life at age 50, 60, 70 was going to be if I stayed single and/or without kids. I told her I was not willing to sacrifice my quality of life for the sake of companionship—if the right person ‘showed up’, great. Plus, I was prepared to raise a child alone.
The conversation made me dig deeper inside and questioned how aging could impact my active and independent lifestyle. I went through family medical history (physiological and physical conditions) and my own health concerns. As a trained finance professional, I often think of the worst case scenario and prepare for it. My thought was let me assume I will stay single, no kids, and be away from my family until I die.
In that case, what do I need to stay content, active, independent and maintain cognitive and functional health?’ My answer was ‘Health’.
Achieving and maintaining optimal health should give me the ability to continue to do things I love–socialize, play sports, enjoy outdoors, scuba dive, travel, and exercise. I grew up constipated, bloated, gassy, burping, cold sores, reoccurring external hemorrhoid, and with a serious addiction to sugar. I used to drink condensed milk out of a can. In addition, I have not been only a work alcoholic with strong work ethic all my life but also sleep deprived. Let me share a little secret with you.
Work first = constant pressure = unbalanced lifestyle = chronic stress = high blood sugar = high insulin levels = insulin resistance = hormonal imbalances = prediabetic. Eventually, it can lead to diabetes, heart issues, inflammation, and much more!
Let me tell you, nobody should feel proud for functioning with three to four hours of sleep. I used to be proud of it! My pathetic diet was composed primarily of deli meats, poultry, dairy products, refined and simple carbs/sugars and artificial sugars. It had plenty of grains, whole wheat products, and tropical fruits. Vegetables and healthy fats were nowhere to be found on my plate. I refused to cook and often regarded as a waste of time. In summary, tropical fruits were the only real foods I consumed.
Although I have not been obese or looked overweight, my BMI was of an overweight woman since my mid 20’s when I had my first physical. The test also showed a triglycerides to HDL ratio of 4! For the next 10 years, I joined the fat free and light/diet products wagon, no eggs, little red meat and fat. The concept of healthy fats did not exist for me. Surely, I improved my lipid profile but my sugar addiction went to the roof.
In 2011, my HA1C had reached pre-diabetic level and my doctor said nothing. I found that out by evaluating my own lab a few years ago. I guess I was not a diabetic so he could not medicate. Hence, what else he could have done for me, right? I had a few good things going for me though: no sodas since the age of 18, little to moderate alcohol consumption, no drugs/smoking, and was active 3x week (running, racquetball, volleyball, some strength training).
Certainly, in order to achieve optimal health, I needed to fix my own health issues, find out the root cause, and jump onto the disease prevention wagon. In 2011, I started my quest to understand the meaning of a ‘healthy diet’. I started to educate myself on various topics of health, but mostly diets and foods, and started to pay attention to how my body reacted to foods.
The moment I learned how carbohydrates, protein, and fats break down, get stored and utilized in the body, their impact on cells, brain, muscles, organs, and energy, I became an avid researcher. The more I dug, the more I wanted to learn. Eventually, the different areas of study including cell and organ function, energy production, exercise, hormones, food nutrients, inflammation, sleep, stress, and internal/external toxins made sense! It became clear to me it was not about a ‘healthy diet’ but about a ‘healthy lifestyle’.
Two diseases that scare me the most are cancer and dementia. Diabetes increases changes of Alzheimer’s by two fold and dementia of any kind by 1.75 times. I am thankful and blessed with amazing opportunities since I’ve moved to the US. It is very sad to see people’s lives and memories deteriorate rapidly.
I am fully committed to do whatever is in my control to prevent these diseases and others. It is not about managing one or two aspects of lifestyle, but also include nutrition, stress, exercise, sleep, and timing. Yet, we must start from somewhere. Small and educated steps build!
Today, I am happy to share I have never felt healthier in my life. I feel in control and in tune with my body through mindfulness. I’ve learned what works for me.
My mission is to educate and empower others to find what is best for them and look and feel priceless.
My blood sugar is well under control so are my hormones. I am no longer pre-diabetic and I kissed good-bye to my health issues. Needless to say, whenever I cheat my own protocol, my body responds quickly with a ‘no-no’. I exercise 4-5x a week and have great energy.
Management of my nutrition became central. I cook about 95% of what I eat and truly enjoy the process, but most important, my food tastes amazing. I cut artificial sugars, unhealthy fats, unhealthy iodine, and most preservatives and additives out. I focus on eating nutrient dense, delicious and colorful foods for higher nutrient content. Plus, I eat a lot more than I used to (volume wise).
My plate is 1/3 of protein (grass fed meat, pasture raised eggs, organic chicken, and wild caught mild fish), and 2/3 of carbs (vegetables and some fruit) and healthy fats (coconut, ghee, avocado, grass fed butter, olive oil, nuts). Since 2014, I have been focusing on improving my sleep and it has paid off. Sleep is the hardest part. I also recognize it impacts my stress, digestion, skin quality, hormones, mood swings, energy, cravings, and much more.
Living a long life is not enough. Living it with joy, energy, and health is perhaps the best gift one can be granted with.
Are you doing your part? I invite you to become a Wellness Warrior.
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