As a fitness buff and health nut since the age of 15, working out and eating right has always been a big part of my life. So big in fact, that I became a nutrition coach and head chef for Venice Nutrition, and even was a partner in two Venice Nutrition centers for years. I loved helping others feel and look their best and coached hundreds of clients throughout my career. I was at the top of my game and making gains in the industry. Then in January of 2008, I suffered from a major back and hip injury and my whole world turned upside down.
If you've ever suffered from a traumatic injury or struggled with a disease, then you can probably relate to how scary it is when your body stops working the way it's supposed to. Throughout my years as a nutrition coach, I've worked with hundreds of clients that have struggled with illness and injury far worse than I ever have; from cancer to lengthy and debilitating surgeries. Until I lost my health, I never understood what my clients went through. I could sympathize, just never empathize until it happened to me. I look back now and it amazes me how strong some of my clients were to overcome all that they have.
A serious injury or illness changes you. It's scary, humbling and painful all at once. I went from a healthy, fit 26 year old to someone that had a hard time getting out of bed each morning. The pain was so bad it was nauseating and I stopped enjoying the little things I used to take for granted. Every day tasks like grocery shopping, clearing the dishwasher and feeding the cat became impossible. The other part of dealing with a disease or injury that's challenging? The endless visits to the doctors, the mri's, the x-rays and the fact that not even the best doctors could really tell me what was wrong. My body was atrophying and the stress was slowly killing my spirit. Add on the fact that month after month I still felt horrible, even though on paper there wasn't all that much wrong with me. I remember asking myself, "Will I ever be "me" again?"
This blog isn't all negative though. I just described the horrible part and the good news is, there's a happier ending. I'm sharing this part of my life in hopes of helping someone else get through a rough time. Whether you have a serious injury, a loss in life, a disease,hopefully somehow, someway you can learn something from my experience. Keep reading for the good part.....
Well, it's almost a year later and I can honestly say that I am getting better. I have less pain than I have for years which is nice to say the least. This experience has changed my attitude as well. I no longer take life for granted. I'm grateful everyday for the wonderful people in my life. I realize I no longer have to be the fittest person in the room in order to be happy. I'm more accepting of my flaws; there's worse things in the world than a little cellulite. I've learned not to sweat the small stuff. Even now, I'll hear a friend complain that they had a long day at work or got stuck in traffic and they're in an awful mood. Not me. If that's the hardest part of my day then I consider myself lucky. It was a year long road to get here but I am grateful for the experience. I took the long road to get here but in alot of ways it was worth it.
Like I mentioned I've learned alot along the way, some things that I believe can really help someone out there who is struggling. Here's some of the ways, the thoughts, the things I've done or learned that helped me get to my happier ending.
1. Find the right experts to deal with your condition. For me, a regular physical therapist provided no relief and only made me worse. After careful research and the recommendation of a great orthopedic, I found a physical therapist who specializes in myofascial release. The weekly therapy working on my fascia and the muscular and postural imbalances have made all the difference. I learned that even severe skeletal issues may be helped by myofascial release and surgery can often times be avoided. If your suffering, I recommend doing a google search on a myofascial release specialist in your area- they truly are miracle workers.
2. Take other's suggestions with a grain of salt. Alot of people would say careless things to me without meaning to like, "take some tylenol and get some rest. You'll be better in no time." Or my personal favorite; "just don't think about it". I know that these people mean well and care about me and until your in a situation like this it's impossible to know the right thing to say to someone who is struggling. So when someone I love says something so thoughtless, I no longer get angry. I smile and say, "that's a great suggestion, thanks" (even if it's the worst piece of advice I've ever heard!).
3. You have to believe you'll get through it. If you've ever struggled with a serious loss, injury or illness you think you'll never get out of the blackhole. And if you keep thinking this way, you won't. I realized six months into my injury that I had to believe I was going to get better. And after a while, day by day, I slowly did.
4. Record your successes. I have days even now when I am so frustrated because I can only walk for 35 minutes versus the hour long intense cardio workouts I used to do. I've learned that by recording the good stuff like, "I have less pain today than 3 months ago." or "I can walk 35 minutes now instead of 10 minutes like before" or "I am getting stronger", I have something to look at as a measure. So when I'm feeling sorry for myself, I'll break out my little notebook with my successes in it and remind myself of the progress I've made. These little successes keep me going!
5. Accept where you are at this very minute. This advice was given to me by my physical therapist and I value and respect what she has to say. Not only has she seen the worst injuries, she's also struggled with a major injury herself. She's taught me that accepting where I am and how I feel at this very minute is healthier than asking myself, "Why aren't I 100% yet?" or "When will I be 100%?".
6. Find activities you enjoy that don't cause you pain. When I'm in pain and everyone else is out and about pain free, I have found that I need something to keep busy that I truly enjoy. For me that's reading a great book, playing with my new kitten, or watching a re-run of Sex and the City or Sopranos. Sometimes it's as simple as having a cup of tea. By having some go-to activities that I can do even in pain, it helps to take my mind off of my injury.
7. Don't let the fear rule your life. Prior to my injury, I drove too fast, I lifted weights too heavy and I thought nothing bad could happen to me. Clearly I was wrong! After I got hurt, I went in the other direction; I became fearful of getting hurt so much that I avoided living my life. This obviously was not the answer either. Balance has always been a struggle for me in day to day life; I'm usually all or nothing, but this experience has taught me to find the balance. No, I should not try to squat in the gym right now, but yes, adding an extra 5 minutes on to my cardio routine might be something I can handle (and a new success to record!).
So I've walked down a long, long road and I've come out a stronger, kinder, lighter person on the other end. I hope my experience can help someone out there to get through their pain a better person as well.
Nutrition Coach and Head Chef
The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent
my employer's view in any way.