17 Dec “Lifestyle Change”
I’ve grown to strongly dislike that phrase. It’s what every doctor suggested I do. Don’t they know that I’m the queen of lifestyle change? I’ve been teaching people how to change their lives for nearly 30 years; but, alas, it seemed to be the go-to recommendation prior to receiving my official diagnosis.
FINE. Let’s take a look at what else I can add to my already-packed schedule [queue eyeroll]. After some self-reflection, I decided to push the pause button on my bad attitude. I took a look at what I was doing during my daily routine and eliminated some bad habits that weren’t conducive to healing my swollen esophagus.
Suggested “lifestyle changes” for someone with GERD:
Advice: Quit eating two hours before bed. Okay, you got me. I’ll admit my bad habit. As soon as I walk in the door after a day at work, [super hungry] I snack a little, make dinner, eat dinner and then snack until I walk down the hall to hit the hay. The reasoning is sound… If you go to bed with a pretty full belly, it means you’ll also accumulate a decent amount of stomach acid because the acid is a necessity for breaking down the food. If you go to bed immediately after feasting, the stomach acid moves north toward the esophagus and vocal cords, wreaking havoc on the delicate tissues. Hence my swollen esophagus and hoarse voice.
My Healthy Hack: I struggled with this so bear with me for a second. I have literally been a nighttime eater my entire life. But, due to my “choking scares” in the middle of the night, I was extremely motivated to not allow my nightmares to develop a history of repeating themselves. The panic that ensues from not being able to breathe really puts some pep in your step to improve, to make a “lifestyle change.”
I needed to figure out a way to eat earlier in the day so that I was still maintaining my nutrient-dense diet and not skipping meals. This involved ramping up my weekend food prep so I could take heartier lunches and snacks to work, while also eating an earlier dinner. In addition, I needed to change the timing of my meals. I decided to consume a larger lunch around noon and a smaller “linner” [lunch/dinner] around 4pm. And, of course, sneak a snack or a mini meal with my hubby in around 7pm, and in bed by 10pm.
Honestly, this is probably the healthiest plan most of us could be on. Yes, it takes a bit of preparation, along with organization, but avoiding going to bed stuffed helps prevent digestive issues AND allows you to sleep better. Win, win!
Advice: Stop eating at 80%. Oh sure, easy to figure that one out mid-meal. One of the quickest routes to digestive distress is to overeat. I can honestly say that I eat too much during 90% of my meals. I eat until I’m stuffed or, at least, very full. Why do I eat so much? Habit? I developed this pattern during my early ‘working years’ when I didn’t have the luxury to take frequent breaks to eat. When I was granted a break, I [clearly] made the most of it. And boom, a bad habit had developed.
My Healthy Hack: Not an easy one. Sound familiar? I needed to be more vigilant. I needed to eat regularly throughout my day, so I didn’t get hangry and overly aggressive when the next mealtime arose. If I got to this point, I was more likely to eat until there was no morsel left in sight. In the book, “Blue Zones,” in reference to the people of Okinawa, at the beginning of each meal they say, “I will eat to 80%.”
It’s not easy. I needed to really figure out what my 80% looked like, but I’m getting better at it. I look at it like this… my 80% means I’m full for roughly 3-4 hours.
Advice: Don’t eat so fast. Digestion starts in the mouth, so chew your food thoroughly. Okay, so maybe I did need to make a “lifestyle change” [or two] after all. I’ll admit, I have a tendency to grab or look at my ‘next’ bite while the current bite has just entered my mouth. Glad to get that off my chest, or my stomach, or whatever.
My Healthy Hack: Hold tight, we’ll get to it… I’ve been in a hurry for what seems like my whole life. And, this includes eating. I needed to put my fork down between bites. Yeah, it might take ‘forever’ to eat. But, it’s worth it. My motivation was high because if I swallowed a bite that wasn’t fully chewed, it wouldn’t go down my poor little swollen esophagus so I would have to cough it up and start over [not an attractive dinner party companion]. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
MY Advice: Strive for progress, not perfection.