Friday, May 1, 2009

Caring for the Caregiver - You!

Mom was telling me this morning of a woman who was over 100 years old and being cared for by her very senior-aged daughter. I was reminded of the need for caregivers to take care of themselves because caring can take years. It can be a marathon, and we need to be good to ourselves so we can be there to help our loved ones.

One area I really have to pay attention to is weight, because it's a fight for me to maintain a healthy weight and feel good. I need energy each day but have a slow metabolism that doesn't like breakfast and holds onto every calorie I consume. Usually I find those calories packed neatly around my waist and hips and it's extremely difficult to unpack them!

I've been talking with a friend about different diet plans we've used or are thinking of. I've tried a number of diets over the years and I confess that's a four-letter word for me. I think of 'hungry' when I consider the word 'diet' so I tend to avoid it like the plague.

I learned a few years ago that small steps can make a big difference. I've said that in this blog before, and I know that it's true. I've applied that principle to many areas of my life and have had good or even great results. Here are some things I shared with my friend that I do to help get myself back into a healthier shape, both physically and mentally.

1) I have to keep it simple or I get overwhelmed. One thing that is really helping me is just incorporating one change at the time and letting it become 'normal' before I do something else. The first thing I did was stop drinking all sodas (diet or regular) because of the sugar and chemicals, and I also stopped drinking sweetened tea. My sis-in-law had great success with this and I was encouraged to try her idea, too. It was hard for me in the beginning because I enjoyed the taste of sweet tea (I am a Southern girl, after all!) and I didn't love plain water's flavor, which is what I began drinking instead. However--and this was so wonderful to me--I began losing weight without doing anything else different.

Also, I was more energized and didn't feel those dizzying highs-and-lows with my blood sugar. I'm not diabetic but it runs in my family, so I am trying to change habits while I'm 50-ish before diabetes becomes a real issue for me.

2) The second thing I did was to begin eating a good breakfast. That was hard for me because my metabolism is slow like my father's (Mama's is revved up and screaming for food 24x7, although she's just a little bitty thing). I don't love to eat early in the morning, however I found that even a bowl of good cereal and a slice of whole grain toast with honey and cinnamon or just-fruit types of jam on it helps my metabolism. I feel the change that's occurring after a few months of this. My body feels more energized early in the morning and I have lost that sluggish, fuzzy feeling I used to wake up with.

Soooo...baby steps, baby steps, give myself time to undo the harm that has been done carelessly or unknowingly over the years.

Since eliminating sweet tea and sodas I can taste sugar better, so a little goes a very long way. My hunger for sweets is almost non-existent compared to what it used to be. When I do indulge, it's for something less sweet than what I enjoyed before. Rich, sweet desserts are cloying to me now, which is totally new for me. I'm glad, because I wasn't trying to change any of that. I just started by eliminating tea/sodas and adding water to my diet.

3) Finally, I've begun making choices to move more. I get out and walk the property, park farther from the front of the stores so I have to walk extra steps, and so on. You won't ever find me at a gym because I don't enjoy that whole routine (kudos for those of you who do, though), but I'm more conscious of taking those 10,000 steps I read about for daily health. My work is sedentary (transcription, writing, editing at the computer hours each day) so I have to offset that with deliberate action. That's the step I'm on right now.

And the best part is I've dropped more than 30 pounds this past year, so I know it's working.

If you're doing something to help take care of yourself, please post it here. We can learn from you and we will definitely encourage you and cheer you on! And remember not to beat yourself up on days you don't achieve your diet goals, or any goal for that matter.

Don't look back - remember that the rearview mirror is tiny compared to the windshield. We need to look forward all the time and only occasionally glance backwards. Focus forward and encourage yourself with what you did right today.

Blessings,
Joan
Caregiver at Home
http://www.caregiverencouragement.com/

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