Baby steps and long-term thinking matter.
This truism was brought to my attention some months ago by my own labs. Let me first preface this by saying that I don’t present myself as a perfect specimen of health though I feel really pretty great most days now. I do, however, have to prioritize my health in order to feel this way and it means being very intentional about the decisions I make on a daily basis. Like the rest of you, I am a work in progress. And like you, I have sometimes felt that I was moving two steps forward and one step back. (I probably moved one step forward and two steps back a few times as well.) But I want you to know that staying the course matters. And if the course isn’t working, then steer the sails in a slightly different direction while still moving forward. This flexible, bio-individual approach is what functional nutrition is all about.
From time to time, I’ll have a client who has made great strides but comes to me upset. Perhaps a lab came back with results that make her question if her efforts are worth it. Or perhaps a client is rocking along, steadily making progress, when suddenly she has symptoms she’s never had before – itchy skin, headaches, night awakenings, knee pain. The first thing we humans naturally think is either “I’m doing something wrong” or “This program isn’t working!” and so we react by eating that piece of dark chocolate toffee caramel (“What does it matter? My blood sugar markers went up and I wasn’t eating any refined sugar! Why bother?”) Perhaps weight loss ceases, or our antibody numbers go up, our blood pressure is still too high or our mood is too low. Who cares? This is too hard! Why bother? What do I do now?
The answer is to stay the course. Respond, don’t react.
Why? Well for starters, forward movement with a purpose is better than flailing around with no plan, any day of the week. Secondly, when we have setbacks, they provide valuable information. Setbacks help us refine our approach by showing us what isn’t working. They also force us to re-evaluate things. Are we forgetting basics like drinking plenty of water? Exercising? Relaxing? Getting to bed at a decent hour (that means no later than 10:00 pm for all of you night owls out there). Once we begin peeling back the layers of the onion, other secondary health issues will sometimes show themselves. These health issues aren’t to be feared or ignored. They simply are. You can approach them with curiosity and resolve. Our body is an interconnected system and, like a mobile, when we change or move one part, the rest of our body responds.
Yes, baby steps and long-term thinking matter. In my own case, I was frustrated with the numbers on a lab report. My blood sugar markers had risen. I also had extremely elevated sensitivity to egg whites and almonds. I focused on those and a few other markers for a good 24 hours. I was frustrated. Good grief, I am a functional nutritionist and I had high blood sugar markers. Why bother? And so I ate that dark chocolate toffee caramel (okay, I ate two) because…what does it matter anyway?
Well here’s the thing. It does matter. It’s important to take a long-term approach because a number on a lab alone doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s just a number. It’s the pattern of labs over time and how they correlate with symptoms that fleshes out the story.
In my case, I pulled out my old labs. My senses returned. The patterns emerged. In my reactive mode, I’d forgotten what my last labs showed. I had been diagnosed by my doctor with Candida. I put myself on a protocol and in doing so, the Candida began to die-off and my blood sugar markers rose. It is a common and temporary response to Candida treatment. As for the sensitivity to egg whites and almonds, I should’ve been ecstatic. My other high sensitivities (gluten, dairy) showed no reaction meaning that what I was doing was working. It was wonderful really because I’d been experimenting with keeping butter in my diet because it seemed to work for me and I was right.
So, was I happy that my blood sugar markers were high? No. Did I have more information to work with now? Yes. Did I reflect on the basics? Absolutely. I realized that exercise had notched down a bit on my priority list. Walking the dog 2 or 3 times a day wasn’t cutting it. She’s getting older, after all, so it’s a true walk, not a jaunt. I had gotten so busy with work and life that I let something that I actually enjoy fall to the side. Looked at in this way, those labs provided important feedback that I could use to move forward. They helped me to see, in black and white, that something was out of balance for me and that missing piece was exercise. Staying calm and having a sense of curiosity allows you to respond, rather than react. To respond means simply “to make an answer” while to react takes that in a counteractive direction and means “to respond with hostility, opposition, or a contrary course of action." When people react they almost always take two steps back in doing so. When you respond, you hold firm and gain more information that enables you to move bravely ahead.
Remember that setbacks in any area of our lives don’t signify failure; they’re simply information that we can use to move forward, one baby step at a time.
I encourage you to find a functional nutritionist or functional medicine doctor in your area that you can work with and that will walk side by side with you as your partner, every step of the way. If you can’t find someone locally and if you’re not in the Houston area, I’m happy to work with you by phone. Just send me an email and we can set up a complimentary 15 minute session to see if working together could be helpful for you.
Hugs and good health!