A few weeks ago I returned home from a 2 week vacation in Bali & Lombok. Whilst most people pile on the pounds when holidaying, I returned home almost a stone lighter.
Sadly, Indonesian food did not agree with me and I frequently had an upset stomach. I’ll spare you the gruesome details, but by the end of the holiday I went to the loo more times than Michael Phelps has won gold.
As you can see my malnourished body began to break down my muscle leaving me a bit boney, very weak and with an arse even flatter than my chest.
Whether you’re on holiday or not, being ill sucks. Especially when it prevents you from doing the things you love, like working out or going out with friends. It can be so frustrating to want to go out, to want to move your body but be unable to. Trust me though; it is best to give yourself a break and allow yourself the recovery time your body needs.
Or you could find yourself bumped off a flight for being ‘too ill to fly’.
Let’s break this thang down…these are my 5 top tips for healing your body and rebuilding strength after illness.
1.Rest & Respect
Most of the time your body is good to you, sure right now it’s having a bit of a breakdown but that’s ok, it happens. Respect the body that carries you through every day of your life and allow it time to rest and heal.
Being sick is just your body’s way of saying you’re way too awesome & you need to slow down so everyone else can catch up.
I know that’s easier said than done. Lying on the coach watching films gets old fast, f.o.m.o kicks in and the desire to move your ass intensifies with every passing hour. However, ignoring your body will not end well. Due to my obsessive nature and belief that missing one workout will somehow make me put on 500 pounds I denied my body the healing time it desperately needed.
Despite being up all night, feeling dizzy, weak and nauseous I forced myself to get up early, put on my trainers and workout. Although I felt great immediately afterwards, the next day I felt so much worse. Furthermore, full recovery is taking longer than necessary because I kept pushing when I should have been taking it easy.
If like me, you can’t keep anything down then just stick to plain filtered water and the occasional electrolyte sachet to keep you hydrated.
Once you feel up to eating, stick to small portions of simple food. Many people follow the BRAT rule: bananas, rice, apples and toast. I personally found banana tasted too sweet and made my nausea worse, ditto apples and I had no gluten free bread to hand. I did find eating a few tablespoons of turmeric rice every few hours helped.
Other things that worked well for me were plain boiled eggs with spinach, oats soaked in water, cinnamon almonds and chamomile tea.
Things to AVOID: dairy, fatty and sugary foods (no mum coke will not ‘settle’ your stomach) and alcohol.
When you’re able to eat larger portions it’s essential that you fill your body with nourishing micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), think bright colours like leafy greens, beetroots, bell peppers and berries. Also eat plenty of gut health promoting anti-inflammatory and probiotic items like turmeric, ginger, kombucha, sauerkraut, bone broth, tempeh, miso and chia seeds.
3.Take it Easy
Ok so now you want to start getting back to normal, the gym’s calling your name and you’re ready to get your body in motion. Whilst this is great and you should definitely start exercising, be mindful that you need to ease yourself in gently.
Maybe take a gentle yoga class or do something low impact like walking or swimming. Leave the Tabata and HIIT until you’re strong enough. Just because you only managed 12 squats and you usually do 30, doesn’t matter it’s 12 more than yesterday and soon you’ll be back to squatting like it’s hot.
All day long your body has been busy fighting off foreign bodies from bacteria/virus/fungi, it’s exhausted and needs to recharge with a good night’s rest.
When it comes to sleep it’s about quality over quantity. Whilst it’s nice to get 8 hours of sleep, 5 hours of deep undisturbed sleep is actually more beneficial than 8 hours of light intermittent slumbering. That’s because deep sleep allows your body to replenish its energy levels, build muscle and get to work repairing and healing itself.
Sadly your body is unlikely to miraculously be healed and back to normal in a day. Recovery can take weeks or even months depending on how serious your illness was.
It’s important to not get frustrated, push yourself too hard before you’re ready, or feel down on yourself. Your health is the most important thing. So what if you’ve lost/gained a few pounds or missed out on a night out, being healthy and fit in the long run is what matters. Yes, it’s hindering at present but be kind to your body now, and it will repay you little by little as you get better, stronger and more ‘you’ with every passing day.
You are doing great. Love your body, nourish it and give yourself a break.
Wishing you a speedy recovery x