Discovering Well-being

I’ve recently been spending a lot of time thinking about my health, the health of my children and family, and even my mortality.  As I inch closer to my next decade, I’m comparing how I feel now versus prior decades and I can honestly say that I’m probably in the best shape I’ve been in the past several decades.

This of course didn’t happen over night, but it’s been a series of serendipitous events that have taken me on this journey of discovering how to achieve better well-being.

It all started a year and a half ago, when I was eating lunch in San Francisco at one of my favorite French bistros, Cafe de la Presse, and I happened to overhear a conversation next to me of a woman giving a nutrition coaching session to a young 20-something woman.  The client was talking about what she’d eaten that day and how she’s addicted to sugar and sweets and can’t seem to kick the habit.  And then the coach mentioned this documentary called Sugar Coated and recommended that she watch it.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I went home that day and added Sugar Coated to my wishlist on Netflix.  Two months later, I found myself looking for a movie and decided to watch it, and when I did, my mind was blown.  I had *NO* idea just how much added sugar was in all the foods that I eat!  I also had no idea that the sugar association in America waged a PR campaign much like the tobacco industry did to convince the American public that sugar in foods was not bad for you!  In sugar’s case, they decided to wage war on fat, and changed the messaging to convince Americans that sugar is not bad for you because it has no fat, and as many of you know, the low-fat, non-fat industry was created and boomed.  Much to the detriment of the health of Americans.

After watching Sugar Coated, I started paying more attention to all the added sugar in my diet, and started reading labels more carefully on the foods I bought at the grocery store and sugar was in literally *everything*.  It was in sliced bread, juices, yogurts, potato chips, granola, sauces, tons of packaged, processed foods.  After noticing that, I made a conscious effort to reduce foods I ate with added sugar (still eating natural occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables) and as a result, I lost 6-7 pounds in about 2 months!  I was shocked.

I hadn’t intended on going on a diet, but the weight came off.  And the other major change I noticed was that once I cut out more of the breads for lunch and eating more whole foods and salads for lunch, I had atleast 30% more energy in the afternoons at work.  It was amazing.  I am human and went back to eating a little bit of sweets and noticed just how sweet those Specialtys chocolate chip cookies are!  What I had discovered was that the more sugar you eat, the less you taste of it so you keep wanting to eat more.  So when I cut back on my added sugar consumption (I still ate naturally occurring sugars, like in fruits), the sugar taste in foods was much more pronounced.

The second turning point was when I came across a book called Deep Nutrition, written by Catherine Shanahan M.D., a physician and biochemist, who also happened to be the nutritionist for the LA Lakers.  It was a very long book, but the biggest takeaways for me (caution- spoiler alert), were that sugar and vegetable oil (e.g. canola oil) are terrible for your body.  I won’t give you all the gory details, but essentially sugar prevents your organs from functioning properly and over time, it can lead to many chronic diseases.  The same for canola oil.

One of the biggest offenses of canola oil is that it obstructs proper brain functioning.  I looked at my cupboards at home and literally all the oil we had was canola oil!!  So I convinced my husband that we should throw out every bottle of canola oil in the house and never buy it again.  Instead we now use exclusively olive oil or butter to cook.  This book also reinvigorated my interest in cooking.  I was never great in the kitchen, but after reading this book, I realized just how important it is to cook meals for my family at home so I know what ingredients are going into the foods we are putting in our bodies.  It also became a great family pastime to cook together with the boys and with my husband.

The other turning point was when I was having dinner with some girlfriends and one of my friends had mentioned this app called Moment that helped her track how much time she was spending on her smartphone.  It essentially does what ScreenTime in the new Apple iOS upgrade does.  After I started using it, I was shocked to see how many hours I was spending on my phone each day!  It gives you the ability to setup limits and alarms when you go over, but it’s a good reminder.  During the same time, one day I tried to put my contact lenses in and it was quite painful in my eye, so I went to see my optometrist.  She said that they were too dry and recommended that I wear glasses for atleast a week to give my eyes a break.  Over the next couple weeks, I did just that, and I also started to consciously start using my phone a little less and taking out my contact lenses earlier in the evening.  After making these two changes, I noticed that the redness in my eyes slowly started to lessen.

Lastly, the biggest change I have noticed is when I started exercising again.  For those of you that know me, I was a former collegiate athlete and before having kids, I would regularly run and swim, sometimes twice in one day!  Then, after my second child was born while I was running my company, I literally stopped exercising regularly for atleast three years.  I’d maybe have a couple good weeks, and then I’d fall off the wagon again because of work and kids.  The only exercises I did consistently were this set of ab exercises I’d been doing since 2003 that took 5 minutes to do and toe raises, and I think that core and ankle work is the only thing that saved me from not getting more injured or having more pains in my body while raising my young kids.

In my last role, I made it a priority to exercise atleast 2-3 times per week – running or swimming.  It felt really good.  And just a couple months ago, I’ve gotten back into yoga and am a big fan of CorePower Yoga.  Their style of yoga is great for a former athlete like me who needs more movement and the combination of meditation, stretching and strength make it a great addition to my exercise regime.  I started to see how much stronger I felt playing with the kids, how it decreased my stress levels, and it made me more aware of what I was eating.

However, at the beginning of this fall, I hit a roadblock because once the two kids started school and we had to shuttle them to/from school and find activities for them to do, I somehow started to lose the slots when I could exercise.  It took several hours one weekend and much trial and error with my husband and our nanny to find a schedule that finally worked that allowed us to each get exercise in.  It’s still a work in progress, but I feel that I have to make exercising a priority, otherwise it won’t happen and I’ve seen just how much it benefits my well-being.

Here are a few of my key learnings that hopefully can help improve your health as well:
/ cook dinner at home atleast 2x/week
/ be critical about what goes into my body
/ exercise atleast 3 times per week, but shoot for 4-5
/ spend less time on my phone and in front of screens
/ spend more time outside (when there isn’t smokey air outside)
/ have water bottle near me to stay hydrated throughout the day

/ stay in tune with my body and look to understand how my body chemistry works

Specific things I track and observe to tell me I’m on the right track:
/ changes in weight
/ energy level in the afternoons
/ energy level in the evenings with kids at the end of the day
/ my skin tone

/ fit of my clothes

Please do share your stories and if any of these findings resonated with you.  I’m doubling down on making a concerted effort to focus on my and my family’s health and well-being.  Stay tuned for more!
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