Where good health is the foundation for thriving in your personal and work life, feeling lousy affects everything you do, and everyone you come in contact with.
Before we moved to Panama, I had spent several years under a huge amount of stress, and it took a severe toll.
I was excited about our move, happy about the chance to dig out from under our personal financial crisis following the meltdown of the US economy, and feeling pretty optimistic about life.
I also felt tired. Bone tired. All the time. No matter what I did.
I dragged along for years feeling exhausted all the time. The portable career I’d developed for myself required me to learn new things all the time, and that prospect often had me in tears. I just didn’t have the emotional or mental energy required.
We didn’t explore as much of Panama as I would have liked. At the time we blamed it on our dogs (it was too hard to find someone we trusted to leave them with), but we could have managed if I’d been feeling better.
The worst of it is, I didn’t realize how bad I felt because it had snuck up on me gradually over many years.
Fast forward to today. . .
There are days now when I’m literally bursting with energy. I’m excited to learn new things and tackle new projects. I’m taking on new challenges.
Things that I was too tired to even contemplate before now getting me jazzed up and rarin’ to go.
I can easily handle things today that I couldn’t have managed at all even a year ago.
For example, last spring my youngest daughter called me, needing help with some things in her life. I live in Orlando, she lives in the Northeast.
I made arrangements to fly up and stay for about 10 days. On my travel day, I left home at about noon, and arrived at her apartment after 7 PM. We walked about half a mile to a local restaurant, had a nice meal, then walked back, arriving a bit before 9.
At that point I met her roommates for the first time, and we hung out in the kitchen chatting for a while. I was enjoying meeting her friends, and an interesting conversation.
Then I looked at my watch and realized it was almost midnight and I wasn’t the least bit tired!
If I’d made the trip a year earlier, when I arrived at her apartment from the airport I would have crawled into bed, too exhausted to even have dinner.
So what made the difference?
It turns out, that the way I’d been eating for years and years – a diet much better than the “standard American diet” – wasn’t that good for me. I was consuming a lot of “healthful” foods that, for me, caused inflammation. And as we all now know, inflammation in the body leads to chronic disease — Things like diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Chron’s disease, and a slew of others.
A year ago I got fed up with feeling sick and tired all the time, and I dragged myself to a functional medicine doctor.
Functional medicine uses a very different approach than traditional medicine does. A functional medicine doctor, instead of throwing drugs or surgery at symptoms, attempts to get to the root cause. And they start with extensive blood work, and diet.
I won’t bore you with all the details, but my initial “treatment” consisted of a three-week elimination diet where I removed every food from my diet that might possibly cause inflammation. When I looked at the list, my response was, “what is there left that I can eat?”
It wasn’t fun. To put it mildly.
After the initial three weeks, I was able to start adding foods back, to see how I responded. I quickly found that I could tolerate eggs (thank goodness!), but not nuts. About two hours after eating a few pecans, I watched in horror as I could literally see my fingers swelling.
Based on the results of my bloodwork, my doctor prescribed a regimen of supplements as well.
After a month on the program, I started to feel better. A lot better.
In fact, after about three months, I felt better than I had for twenty years.
I continue to enjoy measurable improvements in my weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and other important numbers. I know now that certain things, like wheat and dairy, will be occasional treats for me for the rest of my life and will never be a part of my regular diet again.
Although it’s nice to know that, if I attend a wedding, I can enjoy a slice of wedding cake, I’m not even much tempted to splurge on the foods that make me sick. Because I never, ever, want to feel as lousy as I felt for so long.
So why am I telling you all this?
If you’re concerned about your health, there are some places where it’s easier to regain or maintain good health than others. In addition to good quality medical care (doctors and hospitals), you should look for:
- easy availability of a variety of fresh, locally grown produce
- local farming methods that don’t use a lot of chemical pesticides and fertilizers
- if you eat meat, livestock and poultry should be raised in free-range conditions where their food is what nature intended — grass-fed beef, for example, rather than grain-fed
Add to this a living situation where regular exercise — walking or cycling — becomes a regular part of your everyday life, and you’ll have a healthy foundation on which to thrive.
Your health affects your work and your whole life
If you’re starting a portable career, whether it’s to provide a full-time income or to supplement another income source, you need to be on top of your game.
You must be able to learn new things, come up with new ideas, and plan new strategies. If you’re too tired to think, you can’t do any of those.
Before I felt better, I was able to go through the motions, and I always completed my client work on schedule. But new ideas were few and far between and hard to implement.
Again, fast forward to today. . .
The ideas for what I want to do are coming faster than I can possibly implement them. I’m starting new projects, and I’m excited about them. (Hint – one of them is a podcast so stay tuned!)
The good news. . .
In many locations, new residents from the US and Canada report improved health without even trying. Without even trying, they find themselves walking more and eating more fresh fruits and veggies, which are easy to find and inexpensive. Because the processed foods they’re used to have to be imported, they cost more, so they consume less of them.
And their social life improves, which also contributes to better health.
If you worry that your health might prevent you from living la dolce vita overseas, seek competent medical advice and do what you can to improve it before you go. In the right place, though, you’ll still be able to thrive.