Reclaim Your Health

In the previous blog I mentioned priorities. Unfortunately, my health was not in the top four. Income, food, shelter and my children were my top four. I worked multiple jobs with flexible schedules to be able to have an income and care for my children. By about the fourth or fifth year after my divorce, I was finally generating more income, and because my kids were older now, I had more flexibility and a little more free time.

Number five on my priority list was to reclaim my health. From a discipline and motivation standpoint, getting back to the gym was not going to be an issue. In fact, I was looking forward to it. I had been an athlete most of my life, played sports in high school, and was an avid skier. I had even run a marathon and completed a triathlon. However, I was older, much older, and I was about 20-30 overweight.

My first step was to go to the doctor to take some tests and get some advice because I didn’t want to overdo it and have a heart attack in the process. Apparently, the road back to good health was going to be more difficult than I thought. The meeting with my doctor revealed that I was about 30 pounds overweight, had elevated levels of all the critical criteria they track, not just cholesterol and triglycerides, but liver and kidney function as well. I also learned that I had something called non-alcoholic fatty livers disease. It isn’t as bad as it sounds and is curable by changing your diet and exercise. Left untreated will most likely lead to cancer or sclerosis and definitely an early death.

He also referred me to a neurologist because I was very concerned about my obvious cognitive decline from the incredible stress I endured in the first year of my divorce. All of the symptoms pointed to a stroke. The research I did classified it as a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). Also known as ministroke.  This is not the type of stroke that causes someone to collapse and awaken in a hospital with a partial paralyzed face. However, it does cause memory problems, difficulty with concentration and potentially anxiety and depression.

The neurologist performed a lot of tests which included an MRI of my brain. Thankfully, I didn’t have a stroke. At least that was her diagnosis. She said all of the symptoms were a result of significant stress and trauma. She did not downplay my cognitive decline and thought it was serious. All she could guarantee me was that it was not due to a stroke. Trauma, stroke, it didn’t matter what the cause was, I just knew I had to repair my physical and mental health. I changed my diet, drastically. I joined Planet Fitness (for $10.00/month) and started working out 5-6 times per week.

A woman raising hands up

Eventually, I was able to build to a very high resistance level on the stationary bike and treadmill. It took a couple of years, but I was able to get my running time down to 7:00/mile. Not only did that help me lose a lot of weight, but high impact, intense cardo, is food for the brain. Medicine for neurons. During a three-year period, I lost 40 pounds, improved my cognitive function and my blood scores were better than they had ever been in my life.

Even my elevated liver function was better than the minimum healthy level for someone my age, which was 55 at the time. I am not suggesting that anyone use my approach. Every single person who attempts to regain their health, lose weight, eat healthier must remember everyone is different. Different sizes, weight, gender, abilities, history, etc. Which means you need to consult your physician before any attempt at adopting a healthier lifestyle, especially if you have never exercised or tried to eat healthy. As much as I can’t recommend an exercise plan or diet. I can provide some fact-based information that can, I hope, provide some motivation.

Even something as simple as a 20-minute walk 4 times a week can improve your cardiovascular health and reduce stress. Simple weight training or resistance training with little weight and high reps 3 times per week can do the following:

Reduce Anxiety – Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health issues worldwide, affecting millions of individuals. However, research shows that aerobic exercises like walking can be a powerful tool in reducing anxiety symptoms. The rhythmic, meditative quality of walking can calm the mind and reduce the intensity of anxious thoughts and feelings. Moreover, the increase in blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain during exercise helps improve cognitive function and promote a sense of mental clarity, diminishing the grip of anxiety on a person’s life.

Managing Stress – Stress is a normal part of life, but chronic stress can take a severe toll on our mental and physical health. Engaging in regular exercise, such as a 20-minute walk several times a week, can help individuals better manage their stress levels. Exercise allows the body to metabolize excess stress hormones, thus reducing overall stress reactivity. Additionally, it provides an opportunity for individuals to clear their minds, promoting relaxation and improving their ability to cope with stressors.

Depression and Resistance Training – Depression is a complex mental health condition that often requires a multifaceted approach to treatment. In this context, resistance training, which includes activities like weightlifting and bodyweight exercises, can play a significant role in improving mental health. While it may not seem as obvious as aerobic exercises in terms of mood enhancement, resistance training offers unique benefits. Resistance training increases the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that helps with the growth and maintenance of neurons. Individuals with depression often have lower BDNF levels, and resistance training can help restore them to more balanced levels. Additionally, the sense of accomplishment and increased self-esteem that comes with improved physical fitness can boost self-confidence, offering a sense of purpose and meaning, which is vital for individuals struggling with depression.

The Power of Routine

The key to realizing these mental health benefits lies in creating a consistent routine. It’s not about extreme workouts or pushing the body to its limits; rather, it’s the regularity of simple exercises that can be transformational. Establishing a 20-minute walk as a habit or incorporating resistance training sessions into a weekly schedule can make a remarkable difference in an individual’s mental health. In my other blogs I provided helpful suggestions on getting your priorities in order and the importance of goal setting. You start small and create a routine that is consistent with your goals and priorities. Being realistic is an important part of building your success story. Start small, don’t be afraid to take baby steps, and establish a routine.

Think about how little time and money you would have to invest to achieve these results. Another final suggestion that can provide an immediate and significant benefit to your health is to remove sugar from your diet. High sugar intake has been associated with an increased risk of chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, increased inflammation, weigh gain, certain types of cancer and tooth decay. Eliminating sugar from your diet would reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes & cardiovascular disease, reduce excess calorie intake, reduce inflammation, enhance heart health, eliminate spikes in your blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of some forms of cancer. You would be amazed how much better you feel by removing sugar from your diet and introducing a small amount of cardio, like walking, to your daily routine.


In conclusion, simple exercise routines like a 20-minute walk 3-4 times per week, resistance training and removing sugar from your diet has the potential to significantly improve a your health while reducing anxiety, stress, and depression. These activities harness the body’s natural capacity to release endorphins, regulate stress hormones, and improve overall mental well-being. The benefits extend beyond the physical realm, impacting cognitive function, self-esteem, and overall life satisfaction. In a world filled with complex solutions and quick fixes, the power of these straightforward exercises is a reminder of the effectiveness of simplicity in the journey towards better mental health. More importantly, reclaiming your health will help you become a better parent and build resiliency long after your children are on their own.