Why I’ve vowed to make myself a priority in my own life

When I hit rock bottom with my poor health earlier this year, I was drinking way too much coffee and had uncontrollable, unhealthy food cravings. On a scale of 1 to 10, my stress level was an 11. I wanted to take a nap every afternoon, but instead, guiltily drank more coffee and ate sweets.

I was increasingly concerned about developing diabetes due to my dysfunctional relationship with sugar and my waistline being well into the danger zone. I did not look or feel good, and had crossed the line of justifying it with “everyone gains a little weight in their 40s” — because it was more than a little. At night, I’d vow to do better the next day.

The next day, the cycle repeated.

I had been laid off in 2014 and was worried about job security, though I’d been rehired as a contractor. I put not only my job requirements, but also others’ needs before my own. For the first time ever my three kids were in three different schools. Since one of the kids needed a ride every day, I lost two-plus hours daily driving him to and from school and extracurricular activities.

Midyear, during a short grown-ups-only vacation to Aruba — from which I have no pictures of myself because I was hiding from the camera — I met a serene woman who ran a smoothie shack on the beach. For four blissful days (sadly, I couldn’t find the time to take a whole week off at once), my husband and I drank a smoothie a day, stared at the ocean and walked up and down the beach. Having removed myself from the chaos of my everyday life, I felt like I could breathe again. I realized that I couldn’t keep taking my health for granted or I would indeed end up with diabetes, high blood pressure or needing a knee replacement  — or maybe all of the above.

When we returned home, I traded my coffee pot for a blender and began making my own smoothies. I eliminated caffeine and sugar. I also made some other dietary changes such as consuming more plant-based foods and far fewer animal products and processed foods.

I carved out time to exercise, primarily walking or hiking with one or more of our dogs. I usurped my Fitbit from one of the kids — who wasn’t really using it anyway — and recommitted to my 10,000-steps-a-day goal. This has become increasingly difficult with the shorter days, but that often means I am walking laps around the hockey rink during practice or warm-ups.

Here are the top five things I learned:

1 .It’s OK to put my own convenience first sometimes

My oldest now rides a bus to school in the morning. Even though I have to pay for it, my time is worth it. “How long is he on the bus?” one of my friends asked when I told her we had to be at the bus stop (15 minutes away from our house) at 6:45 a.m. “I don’t know, and it’s not my problem,” I replied.

2. Not everything about my job is an emergency

It’s OK to reschedule a meeting to accommodate an exercise class. I work at home and one of the benefits of doing that is supposed to be flexibility.

3. People might not like it when you change

When I posted pictures of smoothies on my social media networks, several of my friends made negative comments about how unappetizing they looked. One of my kids told me, “No offense mom, but I’m unfollowing you.”

“That’s fine, hon. Maybe we can think of a family hashtag in case you ever want to see any of my other posts.”

4. My husband lamented I was no longer sharing meals with him

I had a long heart-to-heart (actually, it was more like a “hear-me-out tirade,” where I sputtered nonstop for at least 10 minutes) about how important my new regimen was to me, my health and our future together.

5. Caffeine and sugar are poisonous to me

I have to put a stake in the ground, claim the time and make self-care a priority.

I lost 30 pounds and reduced my waist by 6 inches in the first three months of my new regimen. I haven’t found the need to weigh or measure in a while — I am also not postponing my enjoyment of life until I hit a magic number on the scale.