On being healthy

Historically, i haven’t been too fussed with being healthy. I’m naturally thin, so after i’d moved out of home in my 20s i ate plenty of junk (rebelling against my healthy upbringing). I’ve never been sporty, i get out of breath very easily, and muscle sore from low levels of exercise.

Entering my 30s did make me start thinking about fitness and health though. Although still slim the weight was creeping on, and the energy levels were dropping. After getting married i also wanted to get fit before getting pregnant, as i figured it would be harder afterwards. Then i found out i was infertile, and then i stopped working, so things just coincided that i could spend a lot more time and energy into improving my general health.

I don’t actually think my fitness or diet has much to do with my infertility. Maybe i’m just genetically programmed to have kids at an earlier age or not at all? Maybe something in my body has been altered so that no more eggs mature? Some scientists used to think women with POF had higher rates of follicular atresia* than normal women, which might account for a faster decline in ovarian reserve. But i am motivated to get the most out of life (whether childless or not), so being healthy sounds like a good idea, especially as high-energy hedonism doesn’t really do it for me anymore.

In terms of short-cuts to health, I’m pretty sceptical of supplements, i’ve always seen vitamin tablets as a waste of money. There seems to be plenty of evidence around that moderate exercise and a healthy diet will do you more good (and for your wallet too!). The same goes for ‘alternative therapies’. I just don’t want to spend money on them, especially now that money is tighter, with my husband and i living off his wage only. Mostly though, i’m just not happy to let the placebo effect to do the work, too sceptical for my own good perhaps?

In between my March and June appointments (with the gyno/infertility specialist) I tried to ‘amp it up’ in the healthiness stakes. I figured it could be an experiment. If i put maximum energy into getting fit, would my measures of fertility increase? (In terms of hormonal measures, i just got the March results, and will see some June results in July). In my head i imagined superwoman levels of dedication and effort. In reality, i put in a little more effort than i ever have, but still nothing like approaching the training of an actual athlete or fitness junkie.

These are the things i have done:

  • cut out alcohol for nearly 3 full months!
  • one term of yoga
  • heart-rate increasing exercise about 5 times a week, usually walking up the steep mountain(hill) near my house, or bike riding, sometimes soccer
  • maintained same healthy-ish diet, lots of veggies, cut back on chips (a little?), still plenty of olive oil and cheese
  • some supplements: iron tablets for a while (not currently), fish oil, folate
  • improved my mental health

So basically, cut back on the alcohol and increased exercise. The alcohol was an odd one. We knew we were drinking too much (I found my last job really stressful, and drank to compensate), so i expected to feel wonderfully better just by cutting out alcohol. It certainly helped, in terms of exercising more often (less hangovers), but it didn’t bring the renewed sense youth and vigour that i thought it might. I think it did help me lose weight, and we saved plenty of money! And best of all, we now find that we’re not going back to the old habits of reaching for a beer every evening.

The iron tablets were because my husband is a vegetarian so i thought i could do with a top-up. I had had my iron tested last year at a bulk-billing/free clinic, and my levels came back as at the lower end of the normal range. It’s probably better to rely on getting it from my diet though, so i’ll just try and remember to eat some meat every now and then (a small amount once a week?). My favourite at the moment is the smoked kangaroo from a local place, it’s really good on pizza or in wraps. The fish oil tablets are purely because a friend gave them to me for free. She had used them during her pregnancy, but had a nearly full, large bottle left over. They make my poop softer and smellier (i’ve noticed when i miss a day, sorry for the TMI), so i’ll finish the bottle but not buy any more. Folate is obvious, i’ll keep taking this one (even though i try to eat lots of leafy greens), just in case i ever get pregnant. I made sure to get the non-pregnancy one though! I’m joking, i just mean i didn’t buy the (pink) bottle that said “Folate for pregnancy and conception” because that is 4 times more expensive than the bottle that has exactly the same amount of folate but isn’t marketed solely to worried mothers to be.

The last point is the one i’m really concerned about, and motivated to do something about. I have lost about 5 kg since the start of the year, which is lovely in a vain way. But I’ve done it gradually and in a relaxed manner, because if there is one thing i want to avoid it’s needlessly stressing myself out. Last year i had high anxiety, and even though i didn’t like the idea, i went on an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) drug for 6 months because i had to do something. Things had gotten to a point where so many little things bothered me, i was just tense all the time and wasn’t enjoying much of anything. This contributed to me losing my job (it’s ok, i didn’t want that job anyway), so then for the last three months of last year i just ‘relaxed’. It’s actually sort of tricky to relax when you’re stuck in a cycle of anxiety and overthinking things. AND when you’ve found out you’re infertile, and you wonder if all the stress you are putting on yourself (which you can now feel physically in your run down body) is affecting your reproductive organs. So i took a while to do little, and to try and enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, at times i could be really grateful that i was in a position where my husband could support us financially. Sometimes i could lie in the sun like a cat and just bliss out.

Sometimes i would feel guilty that i should be contributing more to society, but at the end of the day i don’t really buy that. In the end what spurred me into action was that i had to feel like i was someone. I could spend my days cleaning house, reading good books, generally not getting in anyone’s way and that wouldn’t bother anyone. But it started to bother me. Earlier, I had to strive for some calm in my life, and once i got that i realised that optimal mental health isn’t just calm and bliss. Life doesn’t have to be a desperate struggle but there will always be some struggle. I think the goal is to strive at something, but have the resilience to deal with set-backs, failures, disappointments etc. I had gotten caught up in worrying over the things in my life that were going terribly (and oftentimes things in other people’s lives too! and the world at large!) instead of just focusing on what could work for me. Hopefully this blog will help sort some of that out.

Anyway, the main point i wanted to make was that for me a healthy lifestyle is all about feeling good about your lifestyle. Exercise is undeniably helpful. I’m definitely the type of person prone to sloth, who complains to myself when it’s time to change into my gear and get moving. But each time i feel better for it, not always physically, but always mentally and emotionally. It helps that i have access to my chosen best form of exercise, walking up mountains; it’s free, you get fresh air, on the steep bits my heart rate really gets going, it’s weight bearing too, i get to say hello to my friends who live on the mountain (parrots, kangaroos, lizards and sometimes the shy echidna 🙂


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