Make Your Sure Health is Secure

Make Your Sure Health is Secure

By Laura Andromalos, MS, RD, CDE, CSOWM

If you have been on an airplane lately, you’ve heard the safety speech. Did you notice the part about oxygen masks? Make sure your mask is secure before helping others around you. What happens if you don’t secure your own oxygen mask in an airplane emergency? You may pass out before you are able to help those around you.

When I hear that safety speech, it reminds me of a common theme in my appointments with patients: the need to put your health first.

Many of my patients are givers. They are spouses, parents, and children and they give of themselves to their families on a daily basis. Additionally, several of them have giving professions such as personal care attendants, health care providers, and teachers. Over the years, they have always put other people’s priorities before their own. They worry about taking care of the needs of others and they neglect their own health needs, such as sleep, nutritious food, exercise, and relaxation.

For example, I worked with a patient who took time to make lunches for her three children and her spouse every night but never made her own lunch. Instead, she relied on fast food during the day which was contributing to her weight gain. If you are a giver, I’m sure you can think of similar examples.

It’s wonderful to be a giver but you can’t neglect giving to yourself. To achieve your health goals and live your happiest life, you need to prioritize yourself. If you don’t keep yourself healthy, it is going to impact your ability to give to those around you. Maybe you will be less patient or have less energy due to lack of sleep… Maybe you won’t physically be able to help someone due to mobility or functional body problems…Maybe your life will be shortened due to health problems you have neglected… You need to take care of yourself so you can be the best you, whether it’s as a spouse, parent, child, sibling, coworker, or friend.

In the case of the patient I mentioned, we set a goal for her to take a few extra minutes each night to make her own lunch. She did this and started losing weight since she was eating less fast food. Losing the weight gave her more energy and made her feel better about her body and this made her a happier person and a happier wife and mother. Taking care of herself helped her to better take care of her family.

If you are a giver, tune into whether you might be giving to others at the expense of your own health needs. Remember to make sure your health is secure before helping others.

Uncoupling

Uncoupling

The way we eat, the when we eat, the how we eat, and the why we eat is motivated by many forces. Most of us will recognize and admit to eating for reasons other than hunger. Maybe you associate TV watching with chips or popcorn. A fight with your partner is soothed by ice cream. Have you ever gone to the state fair feeling full or satisfied and want to eat funnel cakes anyway? Just the smell alone of funnel cakes wafting your way brings back carefree childhood memories of fun at the fair. If you eat one, even though you aren’t hungry, maybe you can feel that way again. The taste, texture, and smell of certain foods can flood your mind with memories.

Regardless of the society, culture, religion or ethnicity, we are taught from a young age to associate pain, suffering, happiness, celebration, depression, and a vast array of other emotions with food. Sometimes it is a formal teaching via our faith where certain foods are eaten to play a part in religious ceremonies. Other times, under less formal circumstances, we are taught from our mothers to treat the pain and humiliation of being stood up at the prom with a milk shake. Celebrating a win from a game? Let’s have a pizza! Is it Christmas? Well then, we must have cookies.  

You can start learning about your eating habits by writing down what and when you eat and what you are feeling when you eat it. I’ll bet it isn’t hunger. At some point, to really make progress with your weight loss, you need to uncouple. You need to disassociate doughnuts and disappointment, boredom and beer nuts, suffering and sundaes. You need to uncouple these emotions and experiences with food. Food is many things, but it is not therapy. It is not a tonic. It is not a coping mechanism. After all, if you are disappointed before you start eating, think how disappointed you will feel after eating those doughnuts. What will follow is another wave of emotions, usually self-doubt, defeat, self-deficiency and failing. Now how did that doughnut serve you? Sounds to me like you just rode a roller coaster of self-destructive behavior that brought you back to the same place that you started. Wanna go for another ride?

Uncouple. The next time you are sad. Stop. Think. Maybe you should be sad. It is okay to feel sad at some point in your life. Why are you sad? It is okay to feel. It may be unc