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A helping hand to keep you healthy

Summer Suleiman

Summer Suleiman

This week, while I was searching for inspiration to write my column, I found it in the most unexpected way. While I had originally intended to write about one of my many adventures at the doctor and the “red carpet moment” I recently had there, my writing path took a turn just as I was drumming up the introduction. I’ll save that other story for another day. Instead, I’ll tell you about how I was inspired to write by a simple and kind gesture.

Have you ever gotten home from work and felt so exhausted that you couldn’t imagine doing anything other than sprawling across the couch? No cooking dinner, no exercising, no talking. Just laying.

This week, I had one of those days. And let’s be honest here. I have them often. I made it home from work at about 7 p.m. and quickly scarfed down dinner (that was thankfully prepared by my mom) so that I could set out to do what I needed to do. I just needed to sit down for a few minutes. Well, you know how that goes.

I needed to go for my evening run and I needed to write this column. And truthfully, I didn’t feel like doing either. (I’m sure my editors will love that.) Half of my brain was trying to get my body to respond and get up, while the other half was trying to flesh out my story idea. But it wasn’t long before my body sunk sideways across the couch in my parents’ living room. “Help,” I mumbled, partially to myself, halfway hoping I’d be hit with a stroke of instant energy by some invincible energy gods. I sunk my head face down in defeat.

I didn’t know how I was going to pull it off, my body feeling the impact of several unrestful nights of sleep.

Unexpectedly, I peered up, and saw my brother standing in front of me. He reached out his hand, and said, “Come on, the hardest part is getting up.” He gently pulled me up to my feet. It wasn’t the playful demeanor you would expect from an older brother. It was simple, kind gesture, but it was beautiful and filled me with so much gratitude that I felt compelled to write about it. Because sometimes we can overlook the power of a kind and simple gesture. And it was just what I needed -- someone to give me a hand, and, quite literally, help lift me up.

So, I mustered all my strength, laced up my shoes and hit the ground running. Then, I sat down to write.

I won’t pretend that staying committed to my health is easy. In fact, it’s often difficult. It takes a lot of work and discipline. And although I am fiercely passionate about it, I don’t always love it. I want to live wrecklessly. Sometimes I want to quit altogether. Other times I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility that comes with managing a chronic illness. It is exhausting to have to be constantly cautious with my body, being vigilant about what I eat, how much sleep I get, managing my stress -- which are all factors that directly impact my health. Sometimes, I just want to say "screw it," drink 3, 4, 5 cocktails, sit on the couch with a big bag of Zapp’s chips and a 16oz can of Coke and feel guilty about none of it -- there, I said it!

But you know what, that’s okay. As long as I get back on track.  I can’t always do it on my own. Sometimes I need, we all need, that helping hand to reach down and pull us up.

As Summer winds down, fall rolls in and winter slowly unfolds (New Orleans style, of course, with temperatures plummeting to 50 degrees), it gets so much harder to stay active and stick to healthy habits. So, maybe you’ve been thinking about taking a class, or joining a running group or a gym. Perhaps you’ve thought about starting a schedule to walk around your neighborhood or the park. Maybe you plan to cut back on fried foods. Drink more water. Get to sleep earlier. Try yoga. Take the stairs. Whatever it may be, you don’t have to do it on your own. I’m reaching out my hand to pull you up.

Summer Suleiman is a health writer and blogger who writes about her experience living healthy (or trying to) in a city best known for its fabulous (unhealthy) food and debauchery. You can read about her journey saying no to po’boys and Sazeracs, and yes to kale and juicing, at www.HealthySummer.me or on Twitter @summersuleiman.