I always try to give a shoutout to those folks that I believe have something special. Zakk Tompkins, owner of On The Edge rodeo apparel is one of those folks. I recently interviewed Zakk for my author blog, Talking In The Barn, and I was quite surprised at how open he was about his struggle with depression. I really believe this young man has a big purpose in life to help others and be a voice that’s not often heard but is all to real. If you get a chance, please check out the interview and his blog, Be Remembered Be Bold.
Cowgirls are known for blazing their own trail but sometimes when it comes to our daily lives we have a tendency to think we should follow the crowd, or listen to the conventional wisdom at the time. If you don’t believe that, just visit a barrel racing forum the first three months of the year – there’s a least two posts a week asking what the best diet or diet supplement is, or what the best exercise is to lose weight. Most of the times, those posts receive more responses than the actual horse posts that the sites are designed for in the first place – that says volumes about our head space!
We’re told by physicians, fitness gurus, and supplement companies what we should be eating and how we should be working out. Yet at the same time it’s interesting that they all often contradict each other, and even more interesting is the fact that recommendations are constantly changing. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the drugs that were originally touted to be harmless and then later have a warning label of horrible side effects.
A few years back, like the majority of women in their 30-40’s, I was on a common low-grade anti-depressant for a few years. I wasn’t sleeping well, I was tired, and basically had some depression. I work in the health care field but am holistic thinking by nature. I wasn’t too keen on taking medication but I had to do something and there were no alternatives. The doctors just said I needed to exercise more – I was already getting an hour’s worth of barn chores in the morning.
One New Year I started off with a bang to get in shape. I joined the gym and went on a diet that included veggies, lean protein, and low-fat dairy – I ate a lot of greek yogurt.
Not long after I started the diet, I developed bronchitis along with a sinus infection. Even with antibiotics and enough Mucinex to kill a horse, I just could not get any better. I was sick for at least two months.
I knew dairy could cause thicker mucous and sinus issues. I also knew that most physicians will tell you that’s hogwash but since everything else had failed to work, I decided to try eliminating dairy. A week later, I was already feeling much better and the bronchitis was gone.
That’s when I first decided to cut back on dairy, against conventional medical wisdom as it supplies calcium and vitamin D. Since making that change, I’ve not had the sinus problems that I’ve had before. Any time I do have sinus trouble, it’s always after I’ve gone on a cheese and ice cream binge!
Around this period of time, I developed a bump and then a sore on my face that wouldn’t go away for over a year. A biopsy and blood work showed inflammation but that was it – the doctor was stumped. After doing some research, I asked my physician about Lupus. Based on the biopsy, blood work, and some joint pain that I was having he said that was a possibility and sent me to a rheumatoid specialist who promptly offered medication as the only solution. The medication made me feel like I had the flu, not to mention it had some horrendous long-term side effects.
Not having any alternatives to the medication, I started doing my own research. One of the things that I found was that the anti-depressant I was on could cause inflammation and auto-immune type symptoms. I also learned that certain foods like gluten and dairy could do the same. Armed with that information, I started on a journey of experimentation to see how my body would react.
Long story short, after going off all the medication, and cutting way back on gluten and dairy, the place on my face went away. By experimentation and paying close attention to how my body reacts to food, I learned that dairy and gluten both affect my breathing, cause joint pain, and causes my skin to develop inflamed bumps.
The ironic thing is that foods that the health industry tell you to eat (whole wheat, non-fat dairy) make me sick. The other irony is that conventional medicine had missed that fact.
I tell you this long story to say this — don’t be afraid to find your own journey when it comes to food and exercise.
In finding your journey when it comes to nutrition and exercise, there’s a few things to consider.
- How does you body react to certain foods? Start paying attention to even the very small changes that you see in your body and your thinking when you eat certain foods. Sometimes the changes are extremely small and aren’t noticeable until you start keeping track.
- What nutrition packed foods do you truly love that also makes you feel better? If you can’t enjoy the food you’re eating, you’re not going to be able to keep up that way of eating for long. Face it – we love to eat! Find foods that bring you joy that are also packed with nutrition. For instance, I absolutely love mushrooms and red bell peppers. Instead of always eating bland salads that I don’t enjoy, I’ll brown some mushrooms and peppers in garlic and olive oil… I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
- What does the bigger picture look like? Finding happiness in life is all about balance. If you feel like your food or exercise is taking a toll on other important areas of your life then it’s time to re-evaluate. It’s ok to compromise and adjust if you have to – it’s YOUR journey, not someone else’s so don’t compare and don’t feel guilty if you’re not putting a million hours into running on the treadmill!
- What type of exercise do you enjoy? The more you truly enjoy an activity the more likely you’ll continue doing it. If you don’t enjoy any other form of exercise other than riding, then ride! You can always bump it up and make it more challenging by riding bareback, cantering for longer periods of time, or staying in two point. At least do something and make sure it’s something you enjoy.
I spent a lot of years listening to the “experts” and it got me nowhere. Just because the medical and fitness experts say you should eat a certain food, take a certain supplement. or work out a certain way doesn’t mean that it will work for YOU. We are all different and you can’t compare. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. In the end, this is your life and your journey and you only get to take one ride!