The absence of illness does not equal health – only my second blog post and already I am repeating myself. But there is a reason: This is a quote I have taken from a nutrition book. When I first read it, it made no sense to me at all. Surely, when you are not ill, you must be healthy, no? It was only after I had been on my path of strict optimum nutrition coupled with exercise for about a year (at the age of around 27/28) when I reached a point of feeling better than ever before in my life. And finally I understood. Just because you are not acutely ill does not mean that you are enjoying optimum health. To give you an example, I was eating 5-6 meals a day and not small ones. I ate a lot. And I mean A LOT. Yet I was slim and toned. I only slept about 4 hours most nights and woke up refreshed and switched on. And by switched on I mean alert and clear minded. None of that headfog malarkey. Do you know that feeling – when you feel like your mind stayed in bed and you got up to go to work?
But why is it that we consider ourselves healthy just because we are not acutely ill?
I think it is because we have become so used to those little aches and pains. The tiredness in the morning and after lunch, the lack of energy, the brain fog, the headaches, the back aches, the PMS and the cramps (for the girls). We consider it normal. It is part of life. There are just some everyday niggles that we have to accept, right? And our doctor will reinforce that. They may run a couple of tests if we complain enough. If they come back ok, then the verdict is easy: You are ok, get on with it.
WRONG! Aches and pains are not natural. Getting a cold every winter is not natural. That after lunch energy dip? You guessed it – Not Natural!
When we are at optimum health we have strong bodies and a solid immune system. We feel rested after a night’s sleep and fully alert when we rise. There are no aches and pains (unless you leave the top kitchen cupboard open and bang your head right on the corner of the door – ouch!) and there aren’t even any uncomfortablenesses (I think I just made that up – you know what I mean though). You have energy throughout the day with no peaks and trophs.
I am not feeling great right now, but I still know this to be true, because I have been there! Only I lost it. At the beginning of 2010 I started to work on a project abroad in a country where, as a woman, I had very limited freedom. Healthy food choices just were not available and I was not allowed in a gym (you need a penis to get in) while exercising outside was just too dangerous. It had taken me a year to reach my state of optimum health and it took me just as long to lose it.
I was over there for 14 months and eventually the flat belly gave way to a bulge, the boundless energy moved over for some extra time on the pillow. But before you get disillusioned, it did take a lot for me to lose it. For those 14 months I worked anything between 60 and 80 hours a week. Every week. I was unable to do any exercise, which would have been my stress outlet. Stress levels were exceptionally high, due to work pressures and the constant danger I felt to be under. I was putting my body through completely unnatural circumstances. There was never a break from it, never an outlet or a change to the situation.
Almost 4 years after my return, I have still not gotten back to that optimal stage. Having had it once before seems to make it more difficult. Because I want it back so bad. Right NOW. Straight away.
And this is why I have not gotten back to my optimum health yet. Because I was trying to rush it. And it has taken me until now to take it slower. Acknowledge that I am not starting where I let off, but rather am starting from scratch again. The key is to be realistic. It previously took me a year to achieve it. This time round, my body was so severely depleted of vital nutrients, the prolonged stress had wreaked such havoc with my system, that a lot of healing is required before the restoration of any fitness level.
While I have been through times of worry that this is just it now, I will not ever get it back, I know now that I will. I just had to accept where I am right now.
While I used to exercise a minimum of two hours every day, I have been to the gym for a little swim today. 15 minutes. It was enough and all I could do. The first step to getting back to optimum health is to accept that and know that over time, I will build back up. And in this blog I will write about my successes and mistrials. If I can get there again, then anybody can.