A few weeks ago, I came to another (new) realization about my personal health and wellness. To be completely honest it’s something I have known for a long time but have never wanted to fully admit or accept into my life as true.
Drinking alcohol does not make me feel good.
You may be thinking right about now, “well duh! Of course it doesn’t Rachel, you have an inflammatory bowel and liver disease!” (or maybe you’re not thinking that at all and that’s just my mom's voice echoing in my ears...) But hear me out, I’ve got a point to this story I swear.
Ever since getting diagnosed with Colitis and Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (the liver disease), I’ve been telling myself (and told by others...Hi again Mom...) that I shouldn't drink alcohol anymore. Besides the inflammatory effects that alcohol has on the GI system, alcohol has obvious negative effects on the liver as well. I’m sure after a night of drinking you’ve heard someone say or even said yourself “ugh,my liver hates me right now." And you’re right. You’re certainly not doing it any favors by drowning it in tequila and beer all night!
We rely on our liver to play a crucial role in the digestion process, as well as detoxify and filter harmful substances out of our bodies. Our poor little liver takes the brunt of so much hard and dirty work! Through my studies, I am more than well aware of how important and influential the liver is to achieving and maintaining good health.
But I still drank.
Although I can say in the last couple years I’ve significantly toned down my alcohol consumption, I still make excuses and justify drinking when I’m feeling “well enough” and it’s convenient for me. Weddings,birthdays, anniversaries, etc. are all great reasons to raise your glass, relax and try to feel like a normal human being, without a chronic disease, for one night.
My realization came to me when I started to not only become more aware of the subtle side effects drinking was causing me, but also when I was able to admit that alcohol was indeed the culprit. I would blame poor sleep, brain fog and slight digestive upset on anything else besides the gluten-free,no sugar added,hard cider I had the night before.
The truth is my body just doesn’t thrive with alcohol in the picture!
I know that I feel better without it and after going so many years of being uncomfortable and in so much pain, why should I willingly cause myself more? I had decided that drinking no longer served me and I had no need for it in my life any longer. Such a weight was taken off my shoulders when I came to this realization.
I felt free.
My mindset had shifted from “I can’t drink” or “I shouldn’t drink” to “ I'm choosing not to drink” because that’s what makes me feel my best. I had empowered my actions through my mindset. To me, feeling the healthiest I possibly can so I can enjoy the activities and people I love, is more important to me than having a glass of wine now and then.
I’ll admit that this self-reflection process wasn’t my first rodeo. When I made the transition to a paleo diet, I implemented this same mindset to keep me on track with my health goals. Eliminating grains was easy but dairy? In the past you could always count on me to have a drawer in the fridge dedicated to all the best local cheeses, so giving up dairy was not a simple feat. (I honestly thought it would never happen.) After many learning experiences, trials and errors, I finally realized that I just felt better without it in my diet (at least for now, I’ve still got hopes of sampling the cheese counter again one day *sigh*). But the relief and improvement I saw in my health from eliminating it was worth more than any assortment of Cabot cheddar cheeses.
So what’s my point here. I said there would be a point right?
Empower your actions through your mindset and take back control of your life.
When we step up and take responsibility for our own actions, great personal growth and improvement can take place. No one else can tell you to do something or change the way you are. You have to decide what's going to be best for you, that will allow you to live the happiest and healthiest life you possibly can and then you have to make it happen.
To summarize all this gibber jabber (sometimes I’m not sure my thoughts even make any sense..) here are 4 steps I took, in order, that worked well for me in not only reaching my health goals, but staying committed to actions I know are in MY best interests.
1.) Practice being mindful and in-tune with your body.
You can't improve something unless you know where the issues are to begin with! Listen to how your body is responding to food, drink, exercise and stress. If you need extra support, try writing in a journal to keep your thoughts, observations and ideas straight. Even the smallest stuff matters and journals can be a great way to pin-point correlations between certain things that you may have missed before.
2.) Decide what’s most important to you.
This takes a little self-reflection and prioritizing. Think about the people you love and what your passions are. What brings you the most joy and makes you feel your best? Prioritize those things so you can focus and take action accordingly.
3.) Take actions that will help you reach your goals and fulfill your desires.
Start practicing habits that will set you on the right path for achieving your goals, and leave behind habits that no longer serve a purpose in your life. Choose to focus on changes or improvements you can make that coincide with your priorities so the two can mutually assist each other. For example, if my first priority is my health, with friends and family coming second, I’m going to direct my focus on eating healthy, taking quality supplements, getting enough sleep and exercising. After I feel comfortable with the efforts I’ve put into maintaining my health, I’ll dedicate quality time to my family and friends.
4.) Support and empower those actions through your mindset.
Instead of saying things like “I can’t”, “I shouldn’t” or “I’m not allowed”, switch those words too “I choose to”, I choose not to” “I feel my best when...”
This not only helps tremendously with your intrinsic motivation but is also so helpful in social situations. Especially when it comes to food, people can become very uncomfortable and defensive of their own choices if they see someone doing something that is outside the norm. They may question your actions or try to tell you what your doing isn’t right. All you need to say in these situations is “I feel healthiest when...” People who are worth having in your life should be able to understand that and support your decisions.
We’re all on different journeys and will thus take different paths to ultimately reach the same destination, a place where we have chosen health, happiness, respect and love.
I'll cheers to that!