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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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • HMR2017
    2 years ago

    I’m not getting the “better” part of the argument yet. My ‘before’ life was all exercise. I ran long distance trails, played tennis, swam, skied, hiked all over the world. I was diagnosed in June and feel like life is over. I wasn’t ready at 54, to be able to read and type and not much else. I used to be a research pharmacologist so am well aware of the nasty side effects of all the drug therapies. I don’t want to take any of them but I can see I’m going to have to. Reading the stories and tips on this website has shown me many many sides to this disease and you have given me hope that one day I will be able to get back my old life, perhaps I no longer need to run 50K though eh.

  • Carla Kienast author
    2 years ago

    HMR2017: I know what you mean. I occasionally get asked how RA has made my life better. I usually burst out laughing (to keep from crying). For me, nothing is better with RA — not my health, certainly not my bank account. But there are things that can make RA better. It’s a serious disease and, unfortunately, it takes serious stuff to slow it down. As bad as the meds are, I (for one) am convinced that it’s better than what happens when you don’t treat RA. I’m glad I was able to inspire some hope because I’m living (walking) proof that it’s possible to have a full life with the disease. I am wishing you well on your journey and I’m glad to have been a small part of it.

  • kristine
    2 years ago

    Congratulations on beginning a walking program. My husband was diagnosed with RA 2 years ago and at that time exercise was the last thing on his mind, however he missed it since exercise has always been a part of our life. He feels a lot better now and he just told me that he feels best when he is on his bicycle. I urge him daily to just move, weather it be stretching or biking. Winter of 2017 was the first time he had skied since his diagnosis. Back then he never thought he would be able to do it again and after our first time this year he was so over come with emotion he cried. He was so happy to be skiing ! keep up the good work, I hope it continues to help you. Exercise has been a savior in my husband’s battle with RA.

  • Carla Kienast author
    2 years ago

    I’m so happy for your husband and his success. As my physical therapist tells me, for people with RA, motion is lotion — meaning it helps keep us moving. There are days that are challenging, but keeping with it certainly pays rewards! Thank you for your comment.

  • Wren moderator
    2 years ago

    Walking is the one exercise that seems reasonable to me, and it’s worked in the past for me. Like you, I don’t like to exercise. I hate getting hot and sweaty and breathless. Thanks for reminding me that I can do this–and that it’s just one more small step that can deliver large results.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    2 years ago

    Carla, I was just telling Sheryl I am perfect. Eye rolls mean she agrees, right?

  • Carla Kienast author
    2 years ago

    Rick — in your case, instead of being mo’ better, it’s being more perfect! (As in 110%.) I think it’s Sheryl who is perfect (or maybe just a saint) for being married to you all these years. Hugs!

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