Keeping Resolutions to Exercise and Eat Well with Rheumatoid Arthritis
So here I am again. The start of a new year, which means it’s time to climb back onto the New Year’s resolutions bandwagon. I mean, what else is January good for? In New York City, it’s too cold and gloomy outside to want to do much of anything else. It’s the perfect time of year to reflect, regroup and make a fresh start.
Or so I always think.
To be honest, I didn’t do such a great job on my resolutions for last year. It’s no surprise, given that I was an Rheumatoid Arthritis freshman, feeling overwhelmed, scared and unsure of everything that was in front of me. Though I had the best of intentions in following through on my resolutions, my RA had other plans for me. What can I say, I did the best I could under the circumstances.
This year, though, I have lived through a full year with RA, have gotten it under control, and am positioned to really make some changes. I’m also wise enough to know that it’s important to set more realistic, manageable expectations for myself this time around, instead of thinking I am going to suddenly, miraculously transform myself into an RA Superhero who is a beacon of all things healthy and perfectly well-managed.
My resolutions for this coming year are a bit more bite-size, but if I can stick to them, I bet that I can be a lot more successful.
Resolution #1: Get fit
Like many people, I gained weight after my diagnosis. It’s not rocket science figuring out why -- I went from being an active, yoga-practicing 28 year old to barely being able to move. To say that my metabolism crashed would be a vast understatement; it up and died. The pain also kept me from sleeping at night, which messed up my sleep cycle, which in turn, messed up my metabolism even more. The pounds piled on, and despite some valiant efforts to take them off last year, most of them are still around.
Now that the holidays are over, it should be easier to eat better. I’m going to stick to a more healthy diet (avoiding red meat, sugar and dairy, for the most part) and start exercising at least twice a week.
Resolution #2: Try acupuncture
After I was diagnosed, I decided that I wanted to treat my RA from both a western medicine approach and using alternative therapy. I kept meaning to find an acupuncturist and make an appointment to see how that might help me, but I never got around to it. This year, I’m going to make good on that intention and try it out. In the end, even if I find it doesn’t work for me, I will have explored one more way of managing my RA, and that’s never a bad thing.
Resolution #3: Make sleep and relaxation a priority
Lack of sleep and stress can be two major triggers for flare ups. This year, I’m going to do my best to get eight hours of sleep each night to help me fend off the fatigue that so often comes with RA, especially during a flare. Yoga is a great way to reduce stress, too, and I plan to recommit to my yoga practice, albeit a modified one, which will also, incidentally, help with resolution #1!
Resolution #4: Find joy and celebrate it
Too often, it’s easy to get down in the dumps or wrapped up in anxiety. I frequently find myself going down the familiar road of worry, doom and gloom when I experience a flare, or when other aspects of my life start to feel out of control. At times like this, what helps me most is to take a step back and look for the things in my life or my surroundings that are good and appreciate them, however small or obscure.
Resolution #5: Give myself permission to scrap resolutions 1-3 as needed.
When John Lennon said that "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans," he wasn’t kidding. Having RA means living with a certain amount of unpredictability, and sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to learn to roll with the punches and live in the moment, as cliché as that may sound. Some days, indulging in that donut or foregoing eight hours of sleep so you can enjoy a great concert or a night out with friends is more important and more fulfilling than sticking to some stodgy resolution!
Here’s to a hopeful 2009!