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Striving for a ‘corpore sano’

Mens sana in corpore sano is a Latin phrase that means “a sound mind in a healthy body.” In everyday conversation, that phrase is often reduced to, “Healthy mind, healthy body.”

The meaning is that there is a two-way connection between a healthy mind and a healthy body. Reducing stress, anxiety and worry helps your body function better and a healthy diet and exercise help your mind function better.

In the last year or two, I’ve found myself really, really tired — the kind of tired where you could get 10 hours of sleep and beg for 10 more when the alarm clock chirps; the kind of tired where there just is not enough coffee in the world to get through the day; the kind of tired where people mistake you for being ill or hungover but, really, you’re just tired.

It all crept on so slowly that I didn’t notice at first that anything was amiss. I went from being a really active person — playing on sports teams and exercising daily — to barely exercising at all. I started gaining weight in a way I never had before and I couldn’t lose it. I felt like I had the flu, or was getting the flu, quite often.

I told myself I was under a lot of stress, or not sleeping well, or just getting older. I told myself that I’d go to the gym tomorrow and get back into a good routine.

But then it got to the point that the fatigue, the headaches, and the grogginess could not be explained anymore. I had to dig deep, really deep, just to get through my day. Energy for work was about all that I had and I felt sick all of the time. I knew something was off.

I started researching my symptoms on the web and met with my doctor. When major health issues were ruled out, I started looking into my diet. I made a decision to cut gluten out of my diet completely. The only carbohydrates that I eat come from fruits and vegetables.

Within two weeks of this dietary change, I had lost 12 lbs. I hadn’t even made it back to the gym yet. I didn’t calorie count or reduce my portions. I just ate real, unprocessed, organic food.

Slowly but surely, I started sleeping better and had more energy. My mood improved. I began waking up earlier than necessary to do a load of laundry or tend to my garden. I can’t remember the last time that I didn’t wait until the very last minute to get up and get ready for work. I cut out caffeine entirely, which might explain the plummet in sales at the Starbucks in Towson.

This “gluten-free thing” has been an exploration and a journey. I never thought twice about having a bowl of cereal for breakfast or buying a loaf of bread from the grocery store. I had no idea what a huge part of my life that gluten was or what a poison it was for my body.

Now, I’m looking at my food choices as fuel for my body and for my brain. I can clearly see the connection between the foods I eat and my focus, attention to detail, efficiency, memory and overall good mood.

It’s not that I did my job poorly before making these changes, but I know that I am now able to do it better. I am that much better equipped to barrel through a busy phase,  I don’t feel nearly as stressed out, and I am fairly certain that my coworkers might like this version of me a little bit better.

Best of all, I now have energy for my life outside of work. I’m not grasping for sweats and my couch as soon as I arrive home. Having the energy to do “fun stuff” makes me a more balanced, happier person, which in turn helps my body function better, which in turns helps my brain function better… you get the point.

In a career like this — with all of the pressure and long hours — having a healthy body and a healthy mind are critical. As difficult as it has been to “just say no” to some of my favorite foods (spaghetti, cold cut subs, etc.), feeling energized and like my old self again has been well worth it.