The Strong Girl Survives

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor  the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to  change. ~Charles Darwin

Changes in my life have changed me for what seems a million times.  I’d like to think it’s eased up by now and definitely getting better.  Most changes that I’ve endured have also changed my body, looks and self-esteem over the years…for the good and many for the bad.  And for those reasons I thought I would go more in-depth to some of the occurrences in my life that have made positive or negative changes.  Back at the beginning of my blog I gave you my health and fitness journey for the past couple years, but I think the body and mind affect each other over time.  I can’t go into the “why’s” of it all…because I just really don’t know why…I think change (shit) happens and I guess the strong girl survived.

Let’s dip back in time to early teens…yes the awkward stage for most girls and boys and geez was I ever awkward.  I was overweight, had bad acne, glasses until the 9th grade, not “popular” and add in that it was the early 80’s…not a good image!  Eating at home wasn’t that bad, but there was a corner store across the street that was full of candy bars and chips just for me!  The poor self-esteem started to develop.  My best thing going for me was my artwork. By the 11th grade in high school being able to draw Prince, Michael Jackson and Simon LeBon made me a hit for a while.  And my weight fluctuated of course because I was feeling good.  That is until  September 26th, 1984 when my mom passed away from leukemia at age 39.  I’m sure I do not need to go into how devastating it was for me and my family.  I was 16, starting my senior year in high school…life was not good.  I remember my art teacher telling me I needed to snap out of it…not to be harsh, but I was becoming comatose.  I did a little, but starting college my funk grew worse on the inside and for the next few years and I gained and gained and gained weight.  I would cope on the outside trying to stay happy and focused (at least I think that’s the game I played), but my insides needed hot fudge sundaes and big plates of whatever I could shove in.

Then I saw the photos of my drunken 19th birthday at the bar (yes in Canada the drinking age is 19) and I was horrified!  Had I not looked in a mirror for a few years?!  What happened to me?!  The oversized baggy clothes covered me up.  I stepped on a scale and it tipped at 180lbs for my little 5’0″ frame.  BOOM…Change!  I went on a “health” kick or what I would call now a starvation diet.  I kept track of every single calorie that went in my body.  If it was low-calorie, low-fat, low portion then I was in.  I kept myself to 500 calories a day during the week and on Saturdays and Sundays I would splurge a little, but on going out/drinking nights I wouldn’t eat so I could drink.  Nice.  I also exercised a lot…whatever excercise video I could fit in. In a year I lost 81 lbs…down to weighing 99 lbs!  Sounds good…uh no…someone actually told me I had a big head.  I learned some good exercises, but I had no muscle at all (because it weighed more so why do that!) and I was skinny.

The next 20 years, and boy have they flown by, can be considered a roller coaster of life events that would affect me mentally and physically over time…some of it literally a blur; a whirlwind of depression to happiness and seemingly going nowhere in-between…from marriage/divorce to moving adventures to owning a restaurant to a hurricane to this, that and the other.  The final “blow” per se, would be the day my Dad passed away suddenly in 2006…rolling about life, doing pretty well, the phone call comes in.  Back to that numb feeling.  Yes, it affected my weight again and put me in a sad state, but after a year of that I knew something in me had to change.  It sounds corny to say I had to “find myself”, but I think everyone does at some point in their life…and since it didn’t take overnight to get myself into this rut, it wouldn’t happen overnight to get out of it.  My dad had a huge change in his life when my mom passed away…he could have withered away, but decided to take life by the horns and live it to the fullest…knowing there is only one life to live and it’s pretty short, relatively speaking.  I would say he was, all in all, having a happy, fun life up until the day he died.  Hmm…something to learn from this man.

Since that day, the changes kept coming…trying to figure out how life is supposed to work…I still stumbled and I think earlier this year the lightbulb went off, which lead to my current journey.

A few months ago, when I started my blog, my cousin sent me a message on Facebook: “Congratulations, I’m really impressed with your transformation.  You should feel proud.  I’m only sending these so you can gloat.”  And attached was three photos, which I thought were from my worst moment at 19 years old, but looking closer, it was only about 10 years ago.  I was shocked because I didn’t recognize that lost, overweight woman.

And then I received another message from him that really touched me and means so much to me…I would have been hesitant to include this, but support like this keeps the journey going : “Hi Denise, First off, congrats again on the tremendous transformation.  Unreal.  I want to say though your greatest accomplishment is the mental toughness that it took to see it through.  Your determination is remarkable.  Even more though, good for you finding your solid ground of independence.  I know you’re a victim of mental abuse for at least a period of time.  I heard it myself.  Your breakthrough should be a celebration of self-confidence, determination and belief.  A lot of people spend a lot of time believing in something else, but you’ve shown a wonderful belief in yourself.  I’m happy for you.”

Writing this today, I have most certainly almost come full circle.  Even I have realized health, fitness, food, love, positivity and doing what you enjoy are the keys to happiness.  It’s not just one thing.  Coming full circle means connecting each of those rings of life.  Making it happen.  And still as I’m typing, I am still trying to figure part of it out.  I want my art to be a bigger part of my life, some way some how.  That will connect the rings.  I guess the changes will keep coming, but now I know to just adapt to the change and not just react by grabbing the first box of cookies and hiding in my cave.

I know my story pales in comparison to some and similar to many.  If you have a life story of overcoming the many obstacles you faced, let me know and possibly write a post about it.

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It’s Not Just a Diet, It’s a Lifestyle

Paleo diet, Caveman (or Cavewoman) diet…whatever you want to call it, it’s more than a diet, it’s a decision to change your life for the better.  It’s about obtaining and maintaining ultimate health…more and great sleep…forming a community…little stress…making time to play…make time for yourself…positive attitude…loving yourself…more fun…lifting heavy things and enjoying it…happiness.  It’s getting back to the basics.  Adapt to nature.  It’s about spending time with family and friends, laughing together, eating together, playing together…sharing life.

When I took on the diet part I didn’t know about anything more than taking control of my health, which really, when you take care of this main part the rest of it falls into place.  With all the research I did, I realized in order to have the best health possible I would have to put the whole picture into perspective.

Surprisingly most of the changes came naturally with the diet; hard to explain.  Even though I’ve adapted to the diet 100%, I am still working on the lifestyle…this requires more discoveries, more time and more changes I am more than willing to make.  I like this life.

  • Exercise becomes more natural.  Lift heavy things.  Take long walks (walk dogs).  Feel stronger.
  • Enjoy nature.  Listen to the night sounds.  Savor the sound of waves on a beach.  Watch sunsets and sunrises. Encounter nature alone or with others.  You will just be more aware of your surroundings.
  • Discover all the parks around you.  I know of several parks in Southeast Louisiana that I would love to visit again.  It’s peaceful.
  • Enjoy the sun and feel the benefits of natural vitamin D without coating our skin with chemicals.
  • Sleep for 8-9 hours a night because it makes us feel good, productive and necessary for good health.
  • Learn to appreciate real food and how it is made.  Discover real farmers who raise animals, vegetables, eggs and fruits in a natural way.  You will just be more thoughtful about your food and make better decisions about what you put in your body when you commit to only eating whole real food.
  • Discover new local places to get your meats like a local butcher or a farmer’s market.  Plant some vegetables or herbs.
  • Researching to know what foods make you healthy and why.  What nutrients and vitamins are contained in food you eat.  It not only gives you more knowledge for yourself, but you will be able to help others.
  • Spending time with family and the people you love.  My last trip home was more significant to me than I ever thought it would be and that is saying a lot. Laughing, playing, cooking together.  From sunsets and boating to a concert to happy hours to BBQ family gatherings to cooking together and laughing together.  Really enjoy good times.
  • Finding people with like interests with the Paleo lifestyle and forming a little community of friends to bond with.  Maybe it’s in the city or an online group.
  • Simple living.  Cut things out that have no meaning.  Throw things away that aren’t necessary.  Maybe it’s time to just live a little more basic because it is really all you need.  You will find you will appreciate what you own more than before.  It might be papers, books, Mardi Gras beads, clothes that don’t fit.  Maybe it’s people in your life that clutter your head.
  • Enjoy slow living.  Have a campfire or make a fire pit.  Walk in the rain…I do have my shrimp boots :). Have a picnic.  Go camping.  Go canoeing or kayaking.  Go fishing. Go boating to enjoy that sunset. Plant a garden. Stare up at the sky and star-gaze.  Play games.  Be silly. Throw water balloons.  Build a fort inside or outside.
  • Be creative.  Creative art, writing (hey who would have thought I would have started a blog!), photography, building things, collecting, sewing.  Make it fun.  Creating makes you happy…believe me.

You get the idea.  I still like the Paleo or Caveman lifestyle to describe it…maybe that forgotten world is really what it’s supposed to be like for us humans. We know all animals should eat, live and play in their own natural way, but that’s changed for us, but why? Sure progress is wonderful, but not if we are too sick, too busy or sad to enjoy it.  It’s a nice feeling to eventually have a stress-free, peaceful, happy life…one in which I am fulfilled on the outside and the inside.  Euphoria.  That’s what I’m striving for.  I feel I make discoveries about myself, my life and my surroundings daily.  Ever-changing.  Becoming fearless.

Love this song…it’s a little primal in sound and the only words “Don’t think about all those things you fear, just be glad to be here”.