Physiotherapist Jodie Krantz shares her healing journey towards a more satisfying and comfortable way of living within with her own body. Retracing her steps, Jodie invites you to join her on a challenge to improve your own quality of life and perhaps that of your nearest and dearest.
I reached the age of 50 with my body in a condition better than many my age. Being a Physiotherapist I had always done some form of exercise. My weight was in the upper end of the healthy range for my height. I didn’t smoke or drink to excess – ever. I’d always watched what I ate and ‘listened to my stomach’, stopping when I felt full. I considered myself very fortunate to have completed my training as a Feldenkrais practitioner in 1999. This was a profound learning process which gave me access to the tools to keep my body moving like a much younger person, even into old age.
Yet the small aches and pains had accumulated over the years to the point where there was never a day without some sort of pain. Headaches were frequent and although not severe, made me nauseous, fatigued and thick-headed. This very unpleasant feeling would last 2 to 3 days or more. Foot pain made it hard to walk for more then 20 minutes. My lower back twinged frequently, especially after sitting and in bed at night. I often complained to my partner about being tired. Worst of all, severe episodes of lower back pain had seen me bed-bound and off work for up to 5 weeks.
I knew what I had to do, but it was hard to do it. I had to change some fundamental habits I had formed in over 50 years. This meant addressing the ‘pillars of health’ – healthy diet, the right amount and kinds of exercise, stress minimization and sufficient restful sleep.
So I set the following goals for myself:
- To allow myself the ‘luxury’ of getting treatment when needed
- To improve my diet and rid myself of ‘addictions’ – sugar, coffee and alcohol
- To shed a few kilos
- To reduce my stress levels
- To increase my cardio-vascular exercise
- Get enough sleep on a consistent basis
There was no point changing everything at once. The body doesn’t like radical change and it’s usually not sustainable. The biggest challenge I faced was finding the extra time required, a challenge I know that many of my friends, family, colleagues and clients share!
I started with diet. I had heard about the 5 and 2 diet (also known as intermittent fasting) which was made popular by Dr Michael Moseley. I wasn’t sure if I could manage the fast days, which meant cutting my calories down to only 500 per day, two days per week.
My husband Ben also wanted to lose some weight so we went on the diet together, with the plan of continuing if it worked well for us. For me it works best if I chose days of the week when I’m really busy. That way I don’t think about eating, I just get on with it.
I’m often not very hungry in the morning and I found missing breakfast easy, so I just have my one coffee for the day as my breakfast (with a bit of soy milk). I work right through lunchtime and usually notice a bit of hunger mid afternoon, which comes in the form of feeling restless or irritable. Carrot or cucumber sticks or a tomato eaten slowly or perhaps a teaspoon of vegie stock in hot water helps and these are all very low in calories.
In the evening I make an enormous (really enormous) salad with a dressing of a dash of tamari in some fresh lemon juice. Alternatively I steam some non-starchy vegetables. Topped off with 100 grams of a protein food (I often like to have smoked trout or 2 eggs) and that’s my food for the day.
One of the unexpected bonuses is a lot less work to do in the kitchen on fast days. I also find I have a lot more energy the next day. I don’t feel tired with the fasting but occasionally I feel dizzy if it’s hot and I’m exercising. This is relieved by eating a small piece of fruit and keeping up my fluids.
For me this diet works really well and has been sustainable over several years now. I love how it gets me eating such huge quantities of vegetables and salad.
There never seems to be enough time in the day to exercise. I solved this problem by turning my journey to work and most shopping trips into exercise sessions. This has not only improved my health and energy, it’s also good for the environment. My car stays in the driveway most of the week.
I live exactly 22 minutes walk or 7 minutes bike ride from my work. If I’m in a hurry, have moderately heavy items to carry or it’s very hot or very wet I usually ride my bike. Otherwise I walk with a backpack, taking in the world around me or listening to an audiobook. This usually gives me my 10,000 steps per day.
I supplement this with running a Pilates class every week (where I demonstrate the exercises) and by doing Feldenkrais at home (preparing for lessons which I teach in class. A great little massage ball also helps to reduce painful trigger points in my muscles. When I’m feeling pretty good in my body I ramp it up by doing interval training (sprinting about 10 times up a flight of 32 stairs in a local park, 2 at a time). I also do a bit of jogging on my treadmill at times.
Stress Management and Meditation
Meditation was one of those things that I always felt like I ‘should’ do. However it seemed like something of a chore and until a few years ago I never managed to establish a regular habit.
The thing that changed this for me was when my 21 year old son, Corey, started to regularly practice meditation. Corey’s Dad and I went thirds with in in paying to do a course in ‘Transcendental Meditation’ (also known as TM).
After a few months of practising every morning and every evening for 20 minutes I noticed a new level of presence and calmness in my son. I asked him how he found the motivation to get up every morning and do his practice. He told me that he found it really enjoyable and that it was almost like having an extra bit of sleep.
This opened my mind to two things: that meditation could actually me somethings enjoyable (as opposed to a chore) and that you don’t have to do it for a whole hour to receive the benefits.
Another thing I have found really helpful for minimizing stress is the Heart Math Inner Balance device. It’s a tiny device that clips onto your earlobe and monitors your breathing and heart rate. It connects with a free app on your mobile phone and serves as a kind of biofeedback.
Research shows that when you direct your breathing to your heart area, your heart rate gradually starts to synchronize with your breathing. When this happens it creates feeling of absolute peace and wellbeing. This state of synchronization is known as coherence. The Heart Math gives you realtime feedback on your level of coherence with audio and visual prompts to help you learn.
I have now meditated or done the Heart Math breathing techniques most days for several years. My promise to myself is to take the time to meditate every single day, even if it’s only for 5 minutes.
Regular meditation practice has had amazing health benefits. I have so much more energy as well as being more present and accepting of whatever is happening. I’m more patient and less reactive when things go wrong. It has truly changed my life for the better.
The most neglected of all the pillars of health is sleep. In our culture being extremely busy and getting by on 6 or less hours of sleep may be seen as something you could boast about. Few people realise that even one night with less than adequate sleep can cause pain perception to be ramped up the next day.
I learned so much about sleep from Professor Matthew Walker who wrote the amazing book ‘Why We Sleep’. Listen and be inspired my him here. Reading his book is no less than life changing. Sleep is so vital to our ability to regulate and integrate our emotions. It’s also essential to memory and learning. Inadequate sleep is a contributing factor to many common diseases from Alzheimers to cancer, from heart disease to diabetes.
Matthew Walker advises that if you do one single thing to improve your sleep it should be maintaining a regular bedtime and getting up time. There are many other things you can do to improve your sleep – just google ‘sleep hygiene’.
I now have a reminder in my phone to get ready for bed half an hour before my scheduled bed time. I don’t always manage it but I do try to get up at the same time every day or at least within half an hour of this.
I tracked my sleep using a fitbit and discovered that to get 8 hours of sleep I need to be in bed for at least 9 hours, due to time spent awake at night. This time awake is actually less that for most women of my age, according to my Fitbit data.
Do you have a regular bedtime? And are you giving yourself adequate ‘sleep opportunity’? If not I recommend reading ‘Why We Sleep’ as it is incredibly motivating.
Diet + Exercise + Meditation + Sleep =
Next birthday I turn 59. In the past few years I’ve turned my life and my pain around. One by one I’ve changed some fundamental habits. The outcome? Fatigue as I once knew it, is but a distant memory. I simply feel the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I hope my story helps motivate you on your journey to a longer, healthier and happier life.
All the best on your journey.