When life hands you lemons

I wasn’t sure if I was going to write about what has been happening to me the last few weeks, because it didn’t seem nutrition-related. Then I realized how wrong I was.

My little hiatus is due to the fact that I had to have open abdominal surgery last week. A medical problem that I was aware of, but hadn’t really paid attention to (because it hadn’t been a “problem”) forced me to sit up and take notice Labor Day evening. The pain was so bad that I went into shock and Jeff had to call 911 (after calling a nurse phoneline for advice…if you have access to a nurse phoneline, use it whenever you’re not sure how to handle a health problem, I’m serious!). Several burly paramedics and one ambulance ride later, I was spending the night in the ER while they tried to get my pain under control and figure out what was going on.

I met with a doctor the next day and quickly explored my treatment options. I opted for full-on surgery, since the other options were not guarenteed to work, and could take a long time to show results.

I was shellshocked, and I was more than a little bitter. “I eat more fruits and vegetables in a day than most people eat in a week, I exercise every day…and this happens to me?” I cried (literally…there were tears).

One big reason for living a healthy lifestyle is to prevent bad health events from happening. So when something happens anyway, it can feel like a bit of a betrayal. Like maybe you should have just been sucking down those burgers and fries all along. The truth is that healthy living has more benefits than you can imagine.

You never know what life is going to throw at you, and your body. When you make being as healthy as you can be a priority, you’ll enjoy life’s good times even more and be better able to withstand the physical, mental and emotional stresses that come with the bad times.

Now that I’m on the other side, one week post-surgery, I see clearly how important nutrition and exercise are. No, my healthy lifestyle could not have prevented or treated this ailment, but my recovery has been fairly amazing. While having a positive outlook certainly helps, the fact that I went into surgery fit, well-nourished, and at a healthy body weight was vitally important to helping me avoid almost all of the issues that can come from recovering from major surgery.

Not only did I endure a major physical trauma (all those poor nerve and muscle fibers and lymph and blood vessels), but I lost a unit of blood. My doctor opted not to do a transfusion, and instead let my body do the work of replacing those lost red blood cells. Based on how I’m feeling, I think my body, well-fed with all kinds of nutritious food, is doing a bang-up job of it.And drinking lots of water and eating lots of fruits and vegetables (I also added back whole grains) meant that I didn’t have the “digestive complaints” that can come from taking narcotic pain medicine.

Let me tell you, when you’re trying to protect an abdominal incision from strain and stress, having strong arms and legs is a huge benefit. I have restrictions on my activities (the “don’t lift more than 10 pounds” part really chafes…I miss lifting weights!), but I feel remarkably normal. The massive amount of swelling I had the first two days home (I weighed as much as 15 pounds more than I did pre-surgery) has all but vanished. Just localized swelling near the incision site.

I plan to walk a little further every day, and make gentle use of my stationary bike. I look forward to once again being able to weight lift, do yoga and resume my dance practice. The restrictions feel like an eternity, now, but time goes by remarkably fast, and by supporting my body with the nutrition it needs and the activity it can handle, I’ll be ready when my doctor gives me the go-ahead.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about my post-surgery eating plan, and how it is amazingly similar to the plan I adopted for getting into great shape earlier this summer.