Health & Beauty: I Gave Myself the Gift of Health this Christmas with a #StepsToWellness Journey

I Love Visiting Worden Farm in Punta Gorda, Fla., Each Week to Pick Out and Pick My Organic Veggies
I Love Visiting Worden Farm in Punta Gorda, Fla., Each Week to Pick Out and Pick My Organic Veggies
I Love Visiting Worden Farm in Punta Gorda, Fla., Each Week to Pick Out and Pick My Organic Veggies

I gave myself the best gift I could possibly give this year. The gift of health.

Being a codependent, workaholic means I put the needs of others before my own. For most of my working adult life I’ve put work ahead of my health. I used it as an excuse to skip the gym and constantly ate fast food because I devoted lunches to working at my desk rather than preparing lunches at home and bringing them to work. I used business trips as an excuse to try the most outrageous, over-the-top meals possible.

As I explained in the September post, I was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and more recently, diagnosed with cardiac risk factors. Two grandfathers died from heart attacks, two grandmothers had strokes and closer to home, my father had a heart attack a few years ago. I’m determined to change my destiny.

My cholesterol was also high but knew about that and tried a couple of statins to control it and although it lowered my cholesterol, they had a negative impact on my liver. I used the resources provided by my employer (I’m grateful my employer takes the health of their employees seriously) yet what I was doing wasn’t enough.

And then Coca-Cola gifted me with good health in the form of two sessions with Sarasota nutritionist Nora Clemens. I had won one of their #StepsToWellness prizes during the BlogHer conference. After seeing what could be accomplished with one week, I enrolled in her 180° Health Re-Do Program which did what was promised – I’ve changed my eating, exercise and overall lifestyle habits.

Results have been empowering. They are showing me I am CAPABLE of taking control of my health and I am worthy of putting myself first.

In the nearly three months I’ve been working with Nutrition Nora I’ve lost about 20 pounds (according to the doctor’s office I’ve lost 20, according to Nora’s scale I’m almost there). My clothing fits differently and some just don’t fit at all because they’re too big. Even my necklaces seem longer. What an awesome feeling!

Am I Eating Like a Rabbit? Not Exactly
Rabbits See My Yard as a Giant Salad Bowl. Am I Eating Like a Rabbit? Not Exactly

Proof is in the Lab Report
Importantly, my health is improving and I know this because of my lab reports. My cholesterol has dropped as well as glucose (although my A1C rose from 6.0 to 6.1 which is a little perplexing) just by changing my eating habits and incorporating exercise into my daily routine. My cholesterol is now just a few points away from the “normal” range. It’s a terrific feeling knowing I’ve done this and not man-made medicine.

Yes, it’s been a slow road but seeing that number drop on the scale each week, feeling and seeing my clothing getting bigger and reading lab results inspires me to keep with it. I was doing Shaun T’s INSANITY Workout but I began running after each workout which was too much on my body. I ended up pulling several muscles and straining ligaments and tendons. The result? I can’t exercise intensely for another month or so.

Instead, I’ve been alternating between walking and Shaun T’s Hip Hop Abs and stretching with a 20-minute yoga DVD. I don’t get the emotional and physical high that I get from INSANITY but it’s what I need for my body to heal.

Am I Eating Like a Rabbit?
Although I changed my eating habits I haven’t given up everything I love. During this time I went to Ireland and enjoyed things as fried fish, Guinness stew and a pint (or two) of Guinness and ate hot boudin balls in Louisiana (do you know how many calories are in one ball??? 350!). I also enjoyed my sweet treats, although in moderation, including the yummy and unique flavors of Wild Ophelia chocolate bars, especially the dark chocolate bars.

I also ate to the point of being overly full during a culinary weekend at the Hilton Bonnet Creek and Waldorf Astoria Orlando. I occasionally visit my favorite fast food joints (i.e.: McDonald’s) and make smart choices and continue to consume Diet Coke, although in moderation. And, I have my gal pal nights out every once in a while which results in splitting a bottle of wine (or two).

For the most part, I’ve been eating clean which means when I eat sweets, they taste extremely sweet. Fruits and vegetables are more vibrant with their flavors. When I over-indulge in “unclean” foods I wake up the next day feeling hung over so I rarely do it anymore.

My Workout Inspirations Taped to My Front Door
My Workout Inspirations Taped to My Front Door

Eating Healthy is Expensive. Well…
One of the many things I’ve been learning to do is to plan. It’s such a simple concept yet when it came to meal preparation, I didn’t do it. When it came to grocery shopping, I was the type who would come home with a refrigerator full of items yet I wouldn’t have anything to eat.

These days, I prepare a grocery list and buy what I need which is typically heavy on the vegetables and lean proteins and light on fruit (up to three fruit portions a day), starchy vegetables, fats and carbohydrates. I participate in the Worden Farm (Punta Gorda, Fla.) membership and each week from early December through March, I head out to the farm to pick out fresh, organic veggies.

Because I’m aware of portion control, especially when it comes to fruit, proteins, fats and carbs, I’m not over-purchasing and no longer over-consuming. Each night I prepare lunch and two snacks (a snack may be a hard-boiled egg and a mandarin orange or almonds and a cup of cantaloupe) for the next day along with my breakfast, which is usually a protein shake in the Nutribullet. I rarely buy my lunch at a restaurant meaning I’ve reallocated those funds and actually reduced my lunch spending by preparing meals at home.

Making Choices on the Road
Making the right choices on the road has been challenging. I’ve learned to pack protein bars for flights and opt for water or tomato juice rather than sodas. I pack along snacks to conferences in case they only provide sweets loaded with carbs. If I’m driving, I pack a cooler with things like hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt and carrot sticks.

I no longer look for the most outrageous, over-the-top meals on the menus but seek out flavorful, healthy entrees. Do I skip dessert? Nope. I’ll order it and only eat a bite, or two or three, but not the whole dessert.

Several years ago I heard travel editor Peter Greenberg speak about eating right when traveling and specifically how he chose an apple as his fulfilling snack. I also recall him saying a turkey wrap may not necessarily be the healthiest choice in the airport. Check out his book The Traveler’s Diet: Eating Right and Staying Fit on the Road if you’re a road warrior looking to eat right when traveling.

I’ve also learned to pack along my DVDs in case I can’t walk during my travels. I’ve been practicing my downward dog at 11 p.m. as well as tucking, tilting and tightening at 5 a.m.

The #StepsToWellness Journey Continues
I still have a long way to go but I’m happy and encouraged with the progress so far and am determined to reach my goal weight and knock down my cholesterol and glucose numbers. Nutrition Nora has been my cheerleader by keeping me accountable, motivated and a resource and following Shaun T has been inspirational. In reality, I know I’m ultimately responsible for my failure and success and I’m committed to succeed.

I’m not ready to post before and after photos but will post them in the next #StepsToWellness update.

What did you give yourself for the holidays?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links in order to support maintaining this blog.



Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

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