Thursday, April 7, 2011

Find Your Driving Force

I have to admit, there's some hidden meaning behind the name of my blog.  I have curves.  Literally.  Scoliosis, the lateral curvature of the spine, has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. 

My earliest memories were going to my mom's doctor appointments as they prepped her for surgery.  She had a double major "S" curve that progressed quite significantly after being pregnant with me.  To prevent further progression and to alleviate her severe back pain, they fused several vertebrae together and attached two metal rods to either side of her spine.  That was when I was six.

I don't remember how old I was when mine was first detected.  Since it can be inherited, my mom always kept a close eye on me.  Soon, I was visiting the same doctor that did my mom's surgery.  My "S" curve showed no signs of stability so at age 14 I had to wear a Boston Brace 23 hours a day for four years.  As if your teenage years aren't awkward enough, right?  (How ironic I wore the Boston Brace, too.  Foreshadowing where I'd end up living in my adulthood, perhaps?)  

Throughout my 20's my curves have been relatively stable.  The curve in my upper back  measures 37 degrees and the one in my lower back is a 46.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the jargon, that means I have a moderate (25 - <40 degrees) and a major curve (>40 degrees).  

Throughout my life, we've always compared the severity of my back to what my mom's was when she was my age.  And my degrees have always been more advanced than hers.  When my mom was my age now, her back would go out on her constantly.  To the point where she couldn't get out of bed or move.  And that's with a less severe curvature than what I have.

My back pain is virtually nonexistant and I can count the times my back has gone out on me on just one hand.  I attribute my ability to manage my scoliosis much to my lifestyle.  I maintain a healthy weight for my height.  I exercise five days a week, mostly doing strength training exercises to make my body as strong as possible.  I fuel my body with a lot of lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and heart-healthy fats. 

Knowing the apple doesn't fall far from the tree makes me very aware major spinal surgery could be in my future at some point.  It also serves as my driving force.  On the days I don't want to go to the gym or I want to order take-out, this is always in the back of my head.  I need to take care of myself because it's my best defense against my scoliosis.  I like living pain free and I like being able to bend and twist in different directions, something I wouldn't be able to do post-surgery.  If it's in my control, you better believe I'm doing whatever I can to keep it that way as long as possible.

Ok, that was pretty long-winded!  Enough about me, let's talk about you.  What's your driving force?  Do you have a pre-existing health condition like me you need to manage?  Is your doctor threatening to put you on blood pressure or cholesterol medication if things don't change?  Is the quality of the time you spend with your kids limited because you don't have enough energy?  Do you carry around extra weight that is a burden on your self-confidence?

Whatever your primary reason is to start putting your health first, you need to identify it.  Clearly.  Think of what your entire life will be like when you achieve it.

With regular exercise and proper nutrition, I will manage my scoliosis and function at optimal levels.

Don't give me:

I want to be a Size 2.

Go deeper than that.  Yes, those superficial benefits are great.  I'd be lying if I said it isn't nice to button a pair of jeans in a size I'm satisfied with or not having to hibernate all of swim suit season. 

However, you need to focus on something more important and more life-altering.  That's what will keep you going when things get hard or on those days when you just "don't feel like it".  Remind yourself of it regularly and you'll get back on track when you fall off.

Now you know my driving force.  What's yours?  Feel free to share in the comments below!

*For more information on scoliosis, visit the Scoliosis Research Society.


Cara said...

As a physician, specifically an osteopathic doc, I wish everyday that my patients had the same outlook as you. It is extremely important to have that drive for health- our bodies are meant to heal themselves if given the right supplies. I myself fall into the trap of everyday life- Im exhausted and so it's easier to buy dinner instead of making it, Im exhausted so Id rather take a nap or watch TV instead of exercise and the unhappiness with the end result is not because I had to buy a new pair of pants, but because I feel terrible. So thank you for the motivation to get back into gear... and be able to use that to help my patients as well.

Celia said...

Thank you for reminding me about my osteopenia! It seems that in the midst of all the hub-bub of daily life, work stress, and wedding planning, I have completely forgotten this very simple, but yet very risky condition. While I am not (and probably never will be) wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, I won't complain (as loudly) when you kick my butt in the mornings.

Amanda Kopeski, MPH said...

Thanks Dr. Cooper! Glad to help motivate you. Lead by example for your patients. ;)

Thanks for commenting Celia. :) If it makes you feel any better, you hardly look like you break a sweat during our sessions so I never can tell if I'm kicking your butt or not.

Amara said...

Grave's disease. I let it get bad, and my body starts eating my muscle. Great motivation to weight train, but it's also discouraging when progress I make gets eaten up and I go backwards. I found you through Kellie's site. Great post!

Amanda Kopeski, MPH said...

Amara - Thanks for sharing! I can imagine how frustrating it must be to have your body work against you. Glad you make your training a priority. Thanks for stopping by!