Poor, Sick, Fat, Exhausted: How To Fix It
This is part 1 of a 2-part article. Find Part 2 here.
Hi there. My name is Maggie. I too have been poor, sick, fat and exhausted and I have come through the trials to the other side. I’m here to tell you that there is hope. You don’t have to suffer for the rest of your life. You don’t have to give up and crawl into the bed and let depression overtake you. You don’t have to feel ashamed of yourself for being too lazy to ever do anything. You don’t have to feel guilty for never taking the kids to the park. You don’t have to spend the rest of your life worrying that you can’t afford all your meds and doctor’s appointments. You don’t even have to spend a lot of money for things to improve.
All you really have to do is feel so blasted miserable that you’re willing to step out of your old comfort zone and take the chance that things can get better.
Here is my list of actions that you can take to make your life easier, to give you hope. They are mostly free and the ones that do cost money, cost precious little. You don’t have to do all of them. Every one you do manage, will help. Every one you do accomplish will make you feel better about yourself emotionally and most will contribute to physical healing as well.
Obligatory Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional. I’m a mom, a wife and a grandma. Talk to your health care providers before following any of my suggestions and follow their advice over my own. Also, I am fully mortal and do not always follow all of my own suggestions, although I try to. I am a work in progress. Progress is the goal, not perfection.
1. Drink more water. Water is cheaper than any other beverage and it doesn’t have any sugar or caffeine to make you sick. Most of us do not drink enough water. We drink soda or juice or coffee instead. Start small. Have a glass of water as soon as you wake up. Drink water with your meals. Bring a cup of water to bed with you at night. Fill a water bottle to take with you in the car or on the bus. Drink water when you have a craving for salty foods or sweet foods. Sometimes we crave certain foods because our bodies know that we usually have a beverage with those foods. I crave chips because my body knows I always have a drink with them. My body doesn’t really want the chips. It wants the beverage I have with them. I crave cookies sometimes because my body wants the glass of milk or soymilk that I have with the cookies. I am thirsty, so I eat. Try drinking water first, and then addressing the hunger. When you get enough water you will eat less. Your skin will improve. You will feel less tired. Your kidneys and bladder will function better. All of your internal organs will be happier. You will have more energy. Water is a basic requirement for human life. Making sure you get enough of it is the first step to improving your life and you health.
2. Take deep breaths. Breathe intentionally. This is not a new age-hippy-enlightenment thing. This is an oxygen thing. Our bodies need oxygen to live. We spend a lot of time breathing without thinking about it. That’s a good thing. Sometimes though, especially when we’re stressed, angry, sad or frustrated, we don’t breathe as much as we should. I have caught myself holding my breath when I’m anxious or angry or depressed. I don’t know why I do it. I do know I’m not the only one because I’ve seen other people do it too. When I catch myself holding my breath I remind myself to breathe. It decelerates my emotional response and brings me back down to neutral. When I walk outside I breathe intentionally. Sometimes I smell the stinky garbage cans. Sometimes I smell the neighbor’s backed up septic system. Sometimes I smell a deer carcass rotting in the woods. Usually though I smell pleasant things. Even when the odors are less than pleasant, I keep breathing. My practice is to do it for several minutes, or until my mind is distracted by something else. Even if you can’t get outside, you can still breathe. Try to do it everyday, several times a day. Just stop, take a deep breath, and then take another one.
3. Take a multivitamin. When we’re poor we usually can’t afford all of the healthy foods we know we should be eating. Probably there are nutritional goals that we’re not meeting. When we have nutritional deficiencies our bodies can make us overeat in an effort to try to get enough nutrients to meet our needs. We can feel tired, depressed, sluggish, lazy and unwell, all because we’re malnourished. While it’s better to meet our nutritional needs with real food, this ideal is not always possible. Even if we do start eating more fruits and vegetables, we may still have low nutritional reserves from many years of not getting enough vitamins and minerals. Multivitamins, the kind you take once a day, are cheap. Even in today’s inflationary times it’s possible to find them for less than $5 for 100. This is the equivalent of 5¢ or a nickel per day. If you buy a larger bottle they can cost even less, as little as 3¢ per day. This is less than $1 per month. This is a nutritional bargain! Especially when we live with food-insecurity, a multivitamin can make the difference between being well-nourished and malnourished. And we can afford to give them to the whole family for less than $5 a month. That’s less than 3 bottles of soda pop, less than a pack of cigarettes, less than a pack of beer or a bottle of wine. Especially when we’re poor, sick, tired and fat–a daily multivitamin can help us on the track to wellness.
When you’re choosing a multivitamin I suggest getting one with plenty of iron and calcium. Read the label and choose the one with the most nutrition for the price.
4. Take your meds as prescribed. Usually if we’re fat, sick and exhausted we have some type of chronic condition. Diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, arthritis, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, back pain, knee problems and obesity are likely knocking at your door. It’s likely that your doctor has given you prescription medications to take to help you with these conditions. My question is, “Are you taking your meds?” If you’re like me, the answer is “Sorta, kinda, maybe.” I do take my meds (except when I don’t). Sometimes I run out and can’t afford to fill the prescription until the beginning of the month. Or I’m traveling and accidentally leave my meds at home in the drawer of my bedside table. Or the kids have an emergency and I get distracted because I’m busy turning off the bathtub and cleaning up all of the water that has overflowed onto the floor. Or I’m so tired that I forget to take them and fall asleep instead. Or I’m too sick to get them all together and take them the way I’m supposed to. Or when it hurts too much to get up and get a glass of water so they sit on the table and the cat knocks them on the floor and then they get lost under the couch, never to be seen again. It’s not that it’s hard to remember. It’s just that it’s so terribly easy to forget.
The truth is, if I want to feel better than I do right now; if I want to get myself back from the sickness that has been plaguing me for years, even decades–I have got to take my meds. I have to take them on time, the way the doctor tells me too. That may mean I take them with meals, or spread throughout the day. It may mean I can’t have grapefruit or that I have to take them on an empty stomach, or with a snack so they don’t make me nauseated. Whatever the directions are, just follow them. When you get paid, make sure you have enough of your meds to make it until your next paycheck. Bite the bullet, surrender to the necessity, decide you’re willing to do what it takes to improve your quality of life, and take your meds. You will feel so much better in the long run. I promise it’s worth it.
5. Avoid isolation. When we are sick and tired, we usually want to lay down and be left alone. The sicker we get, the more depressed and hopeless we become, the more likely it is that we are living in isolation. We may see people at work or church, or we may see family members at home, but for the most part, we are isolated from the rest of humanity and even if we don’t want to say it out loud, we’re likely to be lonely. Isolation makes obesity, sickness and depression thrive. They eat it like candy. They want us to stay alone, in the dark, feeling sick, sad and hopeless. Isolation is a trick and a lie. It doesn’t help us get better. It keeps us sick, fat and tired. When we have a cold or the flu, a few days of isolation is proper and appropriate. We stay in bed, drink plenty of fluids and in a few days we recover. When we always feel sick and depressed, always want to stay inside, and never seem to feel any better, it probably means that we’re isolating ourselves. The best cure is to stop isolating.
Go outside. Gossip over the fence. Visit family and friends. Bring a snack to an elderly neighbor. Go to church. Go to the library. Take the kids to the park. Call people on the phone. Attend free support groups or 12-step meetings (Al-Anon, Overeater’s Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery). Meet other members for coffee during the week. Do volunteer work. Go to community events. Invite someone over to share a meal. Find a friend to walk with. Ask the church to start women’s group. See if your library or community center has any activities you would enjoy. Do them even if they seem stupid. Participate in life.
Start small, with one activity a week. Add more as you are able. If one activity doesn’t work, keep trying. If you feel awkward, uncomfortable or people are mean, keep trying. Isolation smothers us in hopelessness and darkness. When we try to get out of our isolation it doesn’t happen overnight. We’ll make some mistakes along the way. It may sometimes seem like too much trouble, that no one else will understand us, that we’ll have too much trouble connecting to other people. This is the isolation trying to keep us in it’s grip. It’s not true. We don’t have to listen. If we want to feel better we have to keep trying to get out and be with other people. It makes our world bigger. It gets us out of our own heads and helps us remember that we are not alone. It’s not especially easy, but it is always worth it.