The 80% Rule And The Holidays
Well, I did it again. I got cocky and ran around like a chicken without a head for three days during the Thanksgiving holiday, and now I’m paying for it. It seems that no matter how long I live with this disease, I never learn my lesson. At least I haven’t so far. Holidays and vacations seem to be the hardest times to remember to pace myself. I know exactly why too. This is the time that I most long to not have JRA; I want to play with my nieces and nephews, stay up late talking to my family and have the energy to be Santa’s helper in the kitchen. It’s also the time when I most starkly confront the reality that doing this and taking care of myself is not possible.
I once heard about the 80% rule for eating. Apparently, in Okinawa, Japan, a place renowned for it’s populations’ longevity and good health, this is one thing people do to stay healthy. They don’t eat until they are completely full or until their plates are cleaned, instead they eat until they feel 80% full, and as a result, obesity is not an option and better health follows. Lately I’ve been thinking about applying that rule to my energy expenditure. When I’ve actually experimented and done it, I have to admit it works. I also have to admit that I’m begrudgingly admitting this fact to myself and I already know that, long term, it will be hard to do perfectly. I’m someone who has a hard time resting, partly because I am in pain regardless, so I justify my overactivity by telling myself that since pain is a constant part of my life. I tell myself that I might as well use my time doing things I enjoy, and not admitting that many of those things tax my body to an unhealthy degree. I’m a big believer in self- honesty, even when your truth is a brutal one. This happens to be one of my brutal truths.
Ingrained habits are hard to break for everyone, but when you live with rheumatoid arthritis, the stakes are higher because habits that negatively impact your health can end up tipping the scale into a flare-up. Year after year I seem to learn this around the holiday season. And year after year I vow to change.
Not doing too much
So this year I have a plan. I’m going to stick to the 80% rule when it comes to my energy levels, and I’m going to ask for help because I know that I’ll need it. I have a few things that will make it easier this year; I won’t be traveling anywhere and we are only hosting a few guests. I’ve been putting a lot of thought into this idea, and I’ve realized that it’s hard for me to say no in the moment, so I’ve talked to the people coming to prepare them for my energy limitations. My husband is on board and he is helping to make cookies this year. I’ve found many podcasts, books, and shows that will keep me company during my downtime. I’ve done all of my shopping on-line. When the holiday crush arrives, I’ll be well prepared. And then the real test will begin…
Be your own advocate
Speaking up about your needs is hard, and with loved ones it can be tricky. You’ve had certain family roles and they may be hard to maintain when you live with pain and swelling. You may feel frustrated when your loved ones still don’t get it, even when you have talked to them numerous times about your life with RA. And when there are young children involved being open about your reality just isn’t possible. But why not practice on the people you love, they want you to be happy, healthy and strong too. And one thing I’ve learned over the years is that when you begin to advocate for yourself, and take real steps to be healthy, people around you notice. They become inspired to take positive steps in their own health, and the friction that can come with misunderstandings dissolve. Who knows, maybe the best gift you can give your family this year is to learn the 80% rule of energy conservation; maybe you can give the gift of better health for all!