a flight instruction showing a woman putting on her own mask before putting on another person's mask

Self-Care: Practicing What I Preach

There are few concepts in this world that are more common than not “practicing what you preach.” I have definitely been in the category of “Do as I say, not as I do.” As HIV advocates, we have many roles. One of the biggest responsibilities is to be sure our community has all the information they need to stay healthy and happy.

That being said, self-care has been, and always will be, at the top of our lists for messaging.

It's easy to lose yourself

This is where we run into a snag. The old adage “easier said than done” comes into play. We all have busy lives full of work, other important engagements that are related to work, as well as families and whatever other responsibilities we may have. It is very easy to lose yourself in the hustle and forget to stop and say, “What have I done for myself lately?”

I'm always taking care of everyone else

I am one of the worst about this. Even as I write this, I am remembering the meal I skipped earlier. Forgetting to care for myself is a common theme for me. I am always more concerned about taking care of everyone else that I forget the second most important person that needs my attention (most important being my spouse). Keeping that in mind, I can’t take care of anyone if I’m not here to do it.

Lab results showed a strain on my liver

I recently was given the eye-opener I needed. My recent lab results came back and showed that my lifestyle was catching up to me. My liver has begun to show warning signs in my lab work.

A combination of meds, poor dietary habits, and lack of activity have been catching up to me. I’ve gained a lot of weight (partially due to meds, primarily due to me) and it is putting a strain on my liver. That in turn seems to be causing higher inflammation that is putting everything else at risk.

My doctor suspects fatty liver

This really put into perspective how systemic some of these issues can become, and how I needed to take my own health seriously. My doctor suspects that I may be developing a fatty liver. So we talk and developed a plan of action.

A plan to improve liver health

First of all, my diet. I will admit, I am a Carb Queen. So, I improved my diet by drastically lowering my carb intake. After that first step alone, I started feeling much better. The very next day I felt like I was so much lighter and had more energy.

I also limited my portion size. Just because I CAN eat as much as 2-3 adult humans can in a single sitting does not mean I SHOULD. Fortunately, I don’t drink much at all in the way of alcohol, so stopping alcohol intake wasn’t much of an issue.

Increasing physical activity

I am also increasing my activity. I love doing strength training, but after getting some great advice from a trusted friend, cardio is what I really need. It honestly doesn’t take much to get started. I found small changes, like going for a walk, work to help you get moving. Of course, I will greatly increase my exercise over time, but too much too fast can lead to injury (ask me how I know).

Taking time for myself

As for mental health, I do my best to take short breaks to do what “I” want to do. Even if it’s only for half an hour, I still take time for myself. I used to feel so selfish doing this, but this has been one of my most important changes. Taking the time to remind myself that what I need and want matters too.

This was a wake-up call for me

I am always talking about the importance of self-care and how people living with HIV need to take it even more seriously. After taking the time to take care of myself, I found out one very important truth: I am right. I received the wake-up call and I am taking the time to change my ways and improve my quality of life. Self-care is paramount, and now I have the experience to prove it.

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