A post illness 'body restoration' program commences...and with it a whole lot more self-love.
By Amy Crawford
As many of you would know I recently commenced a post chronic illness 'body restoration' program in an effort to build my fitness and strength, re-ignite my metabolism and restore my body shape to a point where I feel at my absolute peak. In short I simply want to be the very best I can be from a mind, body and spirit level. I must stress this is not a mission to 'get thin' - it is a challenge that I have chosen to take now that I am entirely free of CFS and have the capacity to increase my physical output and make changes to the diet that restored my health but is no longer quite as 'pertinent' as it was.
As anyone who has had or does have CFS will know, at your worst exercise is simply beyond contemplation. I recall the many months prior to my diagnosis (when we still had no idea what was going on) I was working with a specialist in an effort to manage whatever it was that was throwing me sideways. As such we started monitoring my daily output to try and pull the reigns in and regain control over my health. Of course in the early days if I had a good day I'd go for a 10km run or have a PT session...and even if I wasn't feeling so great I'd do it anyway for fear of the flack I would cop (from myself) for slacking off (proof that it can be a VERY difficult process trying to reign in a Type A personality). The point soon came where running was no longer an option and I was told to grab a notebook and start journalling my daily exercise patterns. It often went like this: "Tuesday: 10 minute walk, 1 minute break; Wednesday: 5 min walk; Thursday: ten minute walk in morning, ten minute walk in afternoon; Friday: nothing in me, couldn't exercise". This journalling continued throughout my illness and whilst it was a massive task on days where lifting a pen was neigh impossible it ended up being one of the most uplifting and inspiring tasks of all. When you're really, really sick it can be very easy to forget how far you've come, even if it's simply the fact that this month you walked 15 minutes a day as opposed to 5 minutes, 2 months ago. It's the little reminders that you are slowly but surely improving that serve to give you hope that wellness is within reach.
Thankfully for me the CFS journey really is finally, officially over. I know for some this seems naively finite of me considering many believe we are never really free of CFS at all. Whilst I know for certain that I am free of it's constraints (thanks to a life transformational CTC session ) there is no doubt my lifestyle will forever be different. These days I appreciate a more gentle pace - early nights, a quiet home environment, long walks over 10km jogs, home cooking over eating out, whole foods over the convenience of packaged and processed foods, catch ups with friends in ones or twos rather amongst throngs in bars. As a consequence of the huge transformation that has occurred in my life (and as a direct result of this illness) I am now the happiest, most content and grounded I can remember being. I bless my recent 'predicament' for coming into my life and forcing me to make these changes, for setting me on this path of spiritual awareness and for teaching me how to love myself for the very first time.
That takes me to a pertinent point. The loving myself part hasn't been so easy...but it's happened every so gradually, albeit a little late in life. As part of this journey to self love I realised recently that I need to totally accept my body as it had become (post illness) or work to get it to the point where I feel I am the healthiest and best version of myself that I can be.
I'll tell you how it was (until very recently). With CFS in my life I wasn't that sick or stressed girl who couldn't eat - I never have been, illness of otherwise. Food has always, always brought me joy (at times admittedly far too much!) and I've always found a way to eat, appetite or no appetite. With CFS it gave me focus, it was one thing I simply had to do each day and it ate into the hours of inactivity and boredom. I would wile away the hours thinking about what I could prepare for my next meal. Previously my love for food was balanced with my hefty weekly exercise regime but it wasn't long before CFS ensured my metabolism ground to a halt and my body lost it's ability to mobilise toxins - not an ideal scenario for a food lover who can't move, exercise or sweat. Consequently I gained a couple of kilo's and lost muscle tone to the point I became ashamed of my body and (sadly) avoided the mirror at all costs. It wasn't long before the berating started at every opportunity. My body copped a beating day in and day out, fuelling a cycle of negativity that often resulted in tears. I decided at a point not long ago that enough was enough and with the signal that I was CFS free I knew what I had to do.
Through the wonderful world of instagram I have established a lovely friendship with a most delightful girl, Genevieve. Genevieve is an actor and part time Personal Trainer who has taken on the challenge of helping me reshape. Genevieve has devised a program I manage on my own and meets with me once a week to to inflict a certain degree of pain (enjoyable, yet painful). Combined with the exercise regime we have had a good look at my diet and it has become quite clear that I need to undo some habits that were formed at the time of my diagnosis - that being a marked increase in good fats (in an effort to remove the heavy metals from my system, amongst other things). Interestingly it was quite a challenge upping the good fats at the time but reducing them is now proving even more difficult - let's just say I have grown to loooove the good fat! The rule for the time being is one good fat per meal each day i.e. avocado, coconut oil, nuts, oil, seeds, yoghurt, etc. Just to put this in perspective there were as many as 6 fats in a smoothie only a few weeks ago. Yes, six. Let me just say that smoothies have recently lost their appeal.
For those of you following my instagram feed or FB page, you will no doubt have noticed a much 'cleaner' diet that reflects my challenge. Into week two I already feel so much more in control and at peace with my body - just the knowledge that I am making progress and some really positive, healthy changes seems to have put my mind at peace. There's a way to go and many a nut butter temptation along the way but hey, I'm only human so I will do the best that I can and arrive at my destination when I get there.