Despite my procrastinating, I came up with my new health goal fairly quickly the other day. I’m totally committed to optimizing my health to improve my chances of a successful IVF treatment and pregnancy.
Seems sensible. Although I’m not sure what “optimal health” really means.
I spent some quality time researching the definition of optimal health. But there really isn’t one. Because we are all so different, the optimal weight, nutrient levels, BMI, muscle mass, athletic performance, etc. isn’t the same for any one person.
I stumbled across an interesting article over at Paleo Leap on defining optimal health. Basically the article confirmed what I thought. You can’t define it. There are so many variables — weight, BMI, muscle mass, athletic performance, sleep, etc.
As a starting point, the article included a working definition of health I liked:
Health is the mental and physical energy, vitality, and resilience to live joyfully in your own body and face the challenges of your life.
Okay…so how does one live like that all the time?
I’m not so sure you can. When it comes to body image, weight and health, doubts and self-criticisms always creep in.
Then I started thinking about working towards optimal health. After all, you don’t just become healthy one day and then you’re done. That’s one of the problems people have with weight loss. They reach their goal weight and think, “Whew! Glad that’s over with.” They don’t bother with maintaining their weight, and the pounds start coming back.
So now I’m thinking about my “optimal health” goal as smaller, more specific goals to work towards.
Dot’s Goals to Achieve Optimal Health
Goal 1: I will optimize my low carb, high fat diet by eliminating all added sugars and substitute sugars from my diet. The only exceptions are natural sugars found in berries (which I rarely eat), veggies, and full-fat dairy.
This should help to lower my glycemic load further as low insulin levels provide a more hospitable environment for embedding the embryo.
For the most part I don’t eat sugar anymore. But as someone who loves to bake, I do use the substitute sugars that don’t raise insulin. For the time being my baking days are over unless I can create recipes without sugars.
The tough part is bacon. I love it so. I made a point of only buying bacon if sugar wasn’t in the top 5 ingredients. Not anymore. The hunt for sugar-free bacon is officially on!
Goal 2: I will limit alcohol consumption (1-2 glasses of wine) to special occasions (holidays, birthdays, anniversary) only.
Alcohol and IVF don’t make great bedfellows. Studies indicate 1 bottle of wine a week (five 4-oz. glasses a in week) reduces IVF success by 25%. For women, white wine is more problematic than red — it has more sugar. And for guys, beer is even worse than wine (way more carbs!).
Plus, optimizing my health means losing some more pounds. When you drink, your body burns alcohol for fuel rather than fat. So drinking can either postpone fat loss or stop it altogether. Lord knows, I’m consuming too much lately (which coincides with my lack of progress).
Goal 3. I will switch from drinking caffeinated tea to herbal tea and limit myself to 1 cup of coffee/day.
I’m finding that I NEED the caffeine in coffee to wake me up in the morning and give me a boost in the afternoon. I don’t want to rely on a stimulant for a boost in energy.
It turns out that there is a good reason to limit my caffeine during IVF. Women’s bodies are designed to short circuit the fertility system during times of stress (I’m not talking about work-related stress). Caffeine increases cortisol – a stress hormone. This kicks your body into the whole fight or flight mode.
Now, one cup of coffee probably isn’t a problem. But what about 5-8 cups in a day? Plus coffee can increase your insulin and blood sugar levels. That translates into weight loss stalls or possibly even gains. Not good.
Goal 4. I will take 1-2 hour walks 5 times a week and do 30 minutes of resistance training twice a week.
When I exercise, I eat better and am way more active throughout the day. And I feel so much better about myself too. It really is my time to think. And I miss it. ‘Nuff said.
Noodling A “Happiness” Goal
These goals work to optimize my nutritional and fitness needs. But Paleo Leap’s definition of health also included “mental” along with the “physical.”
It is so easy to skip your mental well-being and focus just on your body. Certainly my nutritional changes over the last few years have contributed to my mental health. I am much happier than I was before these changes.
I recently read a book, The Happiness Project, and that got me thinking about my own happiness. I’ll have a review of the book posted soon – I have many issues with it – but it did cause me to really rethink about how I want to live my life and what makes me happy.
So my new goals are not complete. I’m noodling some ideas. I don’t think I can set a goal to “be happy.” That’s just weird. Perhaps there are goals I want to achieve – not related to food, or weight or fitness – that lead to a truly happy life.