A couple of nights ago Amy and I were on a grief share Zoom call, and the moderator asked us as a group to go around and share one word that would represent us in life. Many said words such as Healing, Peace, Unstuck, Hope, etc. When it was my time, I simply said "THRIVE!" What does that mean exactly? Well, if you think of the word "Survive" then the word Thrive is the complete opposite. For many months I was in the survival stage of just trying to gasp for air and keep my head above water. I went downhill medically and struggled for purpose in life. This was the opposite of my life pre-David's death, as I had always had vision. I found myself lacking vision, stability, and a willingness to live. No, I am not talking about suicide (although all kinds of thoughts go around in your head while dealing with chronic depression). No, I am merely talking about LIVING in capital letters. It is easy to just exist, as most people do in life, but do they Thrive? This is the challenging question that I wish to drill down on.
On June 13th, I sat in my cardiologist office with my wife by my side. I had already been to numerous other specialists, and I knew that he was going to confirm what I already knew. I was pre-diabetic, obese, in hypertension stage 2 with high blood pressure, fatty liver, and suffered from Obstructive Sleep Apnea. It had been presented to me that if I didn't make a change, then I was very close to entering into Type 2 Diabetes, as well as a heart attack and stroke waiting to happen. That was it. That was the day, 06/13/22, that I came home and resolved in myself that I was no longer going to be in survival mode but was going to switch over to thriving mode. I feel that I have been successful in the transition and would like to explain how. Not because I wish to be braggadocios, but rather in hopes that I can inspire somebody else to finally say enough is enough and make that transition to also thrive.
The first thing that I did was change my diet. No, I am not on a diet, I changed my dietary needs and habits. Food had become therapeutic for me as an overindulgence and had stopped being viewed as fuel for my body. When I realized that my refined carbs and added sugar intake was out of control, I decided to make some changes. I listened to two audio books that transformed my thinking. They are "The Diabetes Code" and "The Obesity Code" by Dr. Jason Fung. He very concisely lists out the dangers of our dietary intake as Americans. Most diets are alike and fads for the most part. This is not a diet, but literally spells out the dangers of added sugars and refined carbs in our daily diets. I say added sugars, as there are naturally occurring sugars in foods all around us. For example, you will find natural fructose in fruit, lactose in milk, sucrose, glucose, etc. I am talking about the added sugars in all of the granola bars, applesauce, coffee creamers, carbonated beverages, and the list is never ending. Then there are all of the refined carbs in the breads and pastas that will increase your glucose levels, and lead to insulin resistance. No, I am not a nutritionist or a Doctor, but I have done my fair share of research, and it should be no mystery to us that the obesity rates in America and around the world are at an all-time high, as are the type 2 diabetes rates. They really started spiking years ago with the cheap addition of high fructose corn syrup that was added into almost every processed food. Are bodies are meant to eat fresh food that has not been processed and stacked full of preservatives. My daily diet usually consists of Eggs, Avocadoes, Coffee, Cucumbers, Chicken, Almonds, Dried Dates & Figs, can of Sardines, Salad, etc.
The next step in my healthy change was to incorporate "Intermittent Fasting." This is lost on Americans, as we are used to eating 3+ meals per day. For most it is probably like 6 meals a day if you count all of the snacks that are eaten in-between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast by definition is "Breaking" your "Fast" from the previous day. Our bodies are not meant to have food crammed into them non-stop. We are made to have a break while digestion occurs. Intermittent fasting helps give your body that much needed break, and also aids in breaking that insulin resistance that causes us to gain weight around the midsection. I usually do a 24 hour fast 3-4 times per week. This entails eating a very hardy and healthy dinner the night before, then not eating anything again until the next evening for dinner. I am also going to start throwing a 36 hour fast in from time to time, which is traditionally done by eating dinner, then the next day fasting breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and obviously no snacking) then resuming breakfast on the following day. Most cultures incorporate fasting into their lifestyle both from a health and a religious standpoint. America is one of the few that does not, and therefore as a whole, we are negative against the concept.
In addition to all of those things, I wake up every morning and do a brisk 3 mile walk around my neighborhood. If time and weather permits, I will usually do an additional 1.5--3 miles in the afternoon and evening. I am convinced that this cardio is not really for weight loss but has aided in lowering my blood pressure.
Lastly, I would point out that I also incorporate in medicine and devices that aid in helping me become healthier. For example, I am on blood pressure medicine, and also use a CPAP every night to aid in my sleep apnea. I would point out that one without the other does no good. For example, if I just used a CPAP, but did not focus on what I ingested and my exercise, then I would not have the same results. The inverse is also true. If I had just exercised and ate healthy without using the CPAP or blood pressure medicine, then I would still be struggling. I am happy to report that since June 13th, I have lost 30 pounds and counting. This would be fine, except that people lose weight all the time, but gain it back. I have truly tapped into what I believe are the "Lifestyle Changes" that are the success to healthy living. In other words, I am not going to stop eating healthy, walking, doing intermittent fasting, taking blood pressure medicine, or using my CPAP, when I get down to my ideal weight (I have a goal of losing another 20 pounds). I will keep doing these things, as I know that they work, and they are making me healthier. I also know that I will splurge and enjoy life by eating some ice cream on occasion, just not regularly.
What does this have to do with Thriving, you might ask? Well, EVERYTHING!!! They are all pieces to the puzzle. I listen to my audio Bible every morning for the first 1.5 miles. I try to talk to other guys and pour into their lives. I want to be the best husband and father that I can be to my wife and children. I do not want to just wake up every morning and survive the day, but rather thrive in going about the day with purpose. This does not mean that I am naive in that I am over grieving. Quite the contrary. I know that I will grieve the loss of my son the rest of my days. It is just saying that I have tapped into the simple fact that I can still have life and have life more abundantly than I was. I was holding myself back and wallowing in the pit of despair, but now I am focusing on living life with joy again. I am not there yet, but I am sure fighting. Again, one without the other daily discipline doesn't work, but in order to thrive it is a package deal.