No. 5 - You Can't Be Perfect, But You Can Be Better

This is the fifth of ten things I’d like to go back and tell my newly diagnosed self about living with RA.

You know those New Year’s resolutions? The ones that we really, really, really mean on January 1 but somehow by February 1 get left by the wayside?

Living with RA can be a lot like that. We all know there are things that can make living with RA better. A lot of them apply to a generally healthy lifestyle: eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, sleep a decent amount every night, and lose weight and stop smoking if you need to.

A resolve to live a better life with RA

At various points in our RA journey, we make those resolutions. We resolve to NOT eat those foods that are bad for us and that can trigger a flare. We resolve to move every hour – even if we are stuck at our desks on a big project. We resolve not to overschedule and cause ourselves even more stress. And it lasts for a few days or a few weeks, but often life gets in the way and we slip back into our old habits and RA smacks us with a flare.

Part of the issue, at least for me, is trying to change too much at once. Being diagnosed with RA is a big enough change, but then adding on a bunch of rules for healthy living can be a recipe for disaster. This year I took a different approach. I looked at ways I could improve my health – not only my RA, but other chronic health issues like high blood pressure, borderline pre-diabetes, weight, and fatigue.

A different perspective to change

I decided that I would make one change and exercise was the thing that had the potential to improve my health the most. (Probably because it’s the healthy thing I was doing the least of.) I knew that I wouldn’t drive across town to a health club, so it had to be something that was easy and didn’t offer a lot of excuses to get out of it. I don’t need much of an excuse because I really don’t like exercise. It hurts. It makes you sweaty. It takes time away from stuff you’d rather be doing. But, like it or not, exercise was the one thing I could change that would make the most difference.

So one day in January, I started walking. I could barely walk a quarter of a mile. That was okay because I had already decided that anything I could do was better than what I had been doing – which was nothing. And the next day I got up and did it again. And the day after that, and the day after that. Today I’m walking several miles most days. Every day I still think about not walking, and some days I don’t. But most days I do and that’s a good thing. The rewards have been great. I have more energy, I feel better physically, and metrics like my heart rate have improved greatly. But there are days it’s a real struggle to tie up the shoes and hit the sidewalk.

I’m certainly not perfect. I don’t walk every day. My diet has too much of almost everything and probably not enough of the good stuff. But I am better than I was. Now that I’ve gotten into a rhythm with one major change, I can think of taking baby steps in other areas.

We’re all human. That means that we all have room for improvement. We shouldn’t try to be perfect because that’s a road to failure. But we can all work to do better and, by doing so, have a healthier life.

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