Earlier this week, I (finally) went to see a new doctor. I needed to get my annual physical, which I hadn’t done since moving to a new city a little over a year ago. Not that I hadn’t been taking care of myself lately. In fact, I’ve probably focused on my health and well-being more than ever in the last year. (That’s saying a lot, considering I’m a health and wellness writer, a certified health coach, and I consider self-development books "pleasure reading.") But I was still feeling frustrated about some lingering health issues that hadn’t disappeared, despite my best efforts.
My hyper-focus on my health started after I saw a functional medicine doctor last year. I wanted to solve some minor, yet bothersome, health issues—fatigue, weight gain, some anxiety—once and for all. The doctor was fantastic—attentive, thorough, and understanding. By the end of the first visit, he recommended I completely revamp my diet, supplementation, and even the way I worked out.
When I left his office, I was given a list of supplements to take. Most I’d never heard of before, and none were easy on the wallet. I had five to take in the morning, more at lunch, and a huge handful to swallow at night. I was advised to cut out gluten, dairy, or sugar, and cut down on carbs. I was supposed to eat more salmon, avocado, and other healthy fats and always start the day with a nourishing breakfast to "feed my adrenals." (That part was doable—avoiding sugar, not so much.)
In terms of working out, I was encouraged to cut back on the heavy cardio sessions I’d been devoted to for years and instead integrate more yoga and strength training into my routine. Oh, and of course, I was tasked with starting that elusive yet effective cure-all: a daily meditation practice.
After a couple of months, I definitely felt better after following the functional medicine doctor’s protocol. Not that it was easy. Since that initial visit nearly a year ago, I’ve been thinking practically nonstop about what I should or shouldn’t be doing to improve my well-being.
I spent hours (and a LOT of money) scheduling my workouts for the week, driving to different yoga studios, and stressing out when I missed a class I’d signed up for. I spent hundreds of dollars on supplements from holistic health stores, and I felt like I was constantly at the grocery store meticulously planning what I would eat over the next 24 hours. I turned down invitations to dinners in order to stay at home and cook my own healthy food.
But as the months wore on, I started to wonder: Could I be overthinking all of this? As someone who (admittedly) overthinks most things in life, I started to think that while I’d developed a greater knowledge about my health and wellness, I’d started to lose sight of the basic building blocks of wellness.
Back to this week’s doctor’s appointment. Sitting in my awkward open-faced hospital gown, I started telling the ob-gyn about my last year. She was incredibly patient and down-to-earth, and I suddenly found myself opening up. I told her about the move I had made to a new city, a toxic job I had quit to work for myself, and the health diagnosis that a family member had just received.
I told her about the pesky fatigue and digestive issues I still couldn’t quite shake off. I told her about all the supplements I’d been taking (and spending money on) and how I’ve been trying so hard to be so careful about what I eat and how I exercise.
"It sounds like you’ve been through a lot and you’re doing a lot right," she said.
I caught my breath, and the words stopped spilling out of my mouth.
"Just don’t forget to be kind to yourself."
I swallowed—this wasn’t the normal type of medical advice I was used to hearing. No supplements, no rigorous dietary advice, no workout Rx? I thought to myself.
She continued, "A lot of us, women especially, have a tendency to put up with discomfort and stress, push through it, and handle it all."
That was me. As someone who definitely likes to do it all—and do it all perfectly well—I actually needed to hear that it’s OK to give myself a break. The move, the new job, the various stressors in my life—they all added up, I realized. And many times, stress can manifest itself as those physical issues I’d been dealing with.
What good health really comes down to, she said, is the simple building blocks we all know by heart: