More than anything, I feel healthy when I get enough sleep. That amount has varied over the years, but it’s getting to be a larger number. I get up early, most days, so managing an evening social life has become more difficult as a result. But if I don’t get 7.5 hours of sleep, I really notice it. I can get by on 6 hours for a few days, but the ‘fog’ is perceptible, and coffee required . . . which can lead to restless sleep and not getting enough sleep, needing caffeine to function . . . BAM! vicious circle enacted. No bueno. Some weekends I sleep in and get 9 hours, and that feels great. I do that on vacations as well, I notice.
Eating well-prepared, delicious food makes me feel healthy. Whether prepared by me, J., or a professional makes no difference. I love food and am lucky enough to live in a place where fresh, organic protein and produce is available year-round. I’m a person who reads cookbooks for fun, looking for new ways to try flavors and combinations. Eating a crisp salad with a bright vinaigrette makes me feel good. When it’s followed by corn tortillas stuffed with red cabbage and pork carnitas . . . I’m feeling very healthy. AND happy.
Relatedly, I feel healthy when I am making food ‘to put by’. Mixing corn bread and storing it in jars. Making batches of berry jam, or cranberry sauce. Canning my fall fruit butter (an incredible combination of squash or pumpkin, apple, grapes, and nuts) to eat all through the year on a cheese plate with whole grain crackers or thin sliced, dense bread. Making limoncello (I’ll have to write up the adventure its been one day). Mixing batches of my Heals What Ails Ya tea, and giving it away to friends throughout the cold and flu season, while drinking it at home. These small tasks make me feel good, connect me with my ancestors, and spread health to those I love, my family of blood and choice.
Working out can make me feel healthy . . . but it can also backfire. When I do things I can do — like Pilates or some forms of Yoga, or even strength training — I feel healthy and good. When I am asked to do things that I ‘should’ be able to do, but can’t — like crab walks, or jumping jacks, or running — I feel awful. I have a weird place where I go from normal exertion to exhaustion very quickly. As in, from breathing hard with an elevated heart rate but basically ok to dizzy, nauseous, and can barely hear for the pounding of the blood in my ears. Super pas de bueno. (and scary) So moving my body can feel good and healthy, but not always.
I feel healthy when I can do what I need to do. This is a little hard to explain, and may not make sense to anyone who hasn’t had any kind of injury yet. Between a back/hip injury more than a decade ago and cancer (with its after effects) I’ve had a lot of physical issues since the new millennium rolled around. Turns out that while I was super physically active and my limbs were strong, my core had all the strength of over-cooked pasta, and that led to a major ‘pull’ of several muscle groups that eventually became a massive mis-alignment. I spent a few years barely being able to walk more than a few minutes at a time, and anything more physical than that was impossible. (I wish I’d known about chair yoga back then, I might have tried that.) PT helped, some, but I was unable to find a fix. Post-cancer, post-chemo, I was searching for a way back into my body. (Losing a breast does really funky things to your posture and balance, even if you aren’t particularly large-breasted.) Mat Pilates was too hard on my back, but the Reformer was a miracle. I discovered that I had NO CORE muscles, and set about rectifying that issue. But going through SOMA with the incredible Carli fixed me. I am re-aligned and have great posture (and the before and after pictures to prove it). From being unable to walk more than a few minutes, I can now ride a bike, walk all over cities, and do a full Reformer workout from memory. (I even went back to my beloved Muay Thai workouts.)
I feel healthy when my blood work is good. I don’t have cancer, my PAPs are negative, but my cholesterol is a bit high, as is my glucose. Getting those numbers in line is my goal for 2016.