Journey to Optimal Health Using Action Research

The Author

E. Alana James

E. Alana James

Dr E Alana James is reinventing herself again! Coming full circle to the first love of her life - art - and bringing back to her images all the lessons of her life as author, researcher, academic and wife. Concerned mostly with the idea of images as vehicles for expression of the truth of our inner and outer life experience.

My story is a great one and I tell it here so that you may believe it is possible to come back 15 years in health, vitality, and youthfulness. This time last year I felt like I was at least 60 years old. You know the signs: stiff, sore, aching much of the time, no longer feeling like I wanted to move much. As luck would have it we went back to the United States for Christmas and I was up against seeing my family.

Nothing like family to show us how we are as we compare ourselves to them, and to the memories that being with them brings up. I came back to Ireland ready to do whatever it took to reverse what had become a downward trend.

A background to the story is that I live my life through the lens of action research, meaning that I’m always trying to be alert to what I am discovering, how I am moving forward towards my goals, how I could track that or measure the outcome of my steps (positive or negative), and to reflect on how I am doing. Those three steps taken together, discovery — measurable action — reflection, constitute what I call one cycle. There were three cycles to this year’s success in coming back to health, this article shares them with you in the hopes of inspiring this potential in your own life

First Cycle: Changing My Alkalinity

Shortly after I had made my New Year’s resolution to get healthy a friend came over and commented about how she was implementing the ideas of a doctor named Robert Young and his work with alkalinity versus acid in the body. By going to the two websites, one on energise for life in the UK, and the other on PH miracle in the US, I discovered that there was a line of information about our bodies natural level of alkalinity. We should be somewhere between 7.25 and 7.5 which is neutral between asset an alkaline. The foods that digest and become acid makeup most of the Western diet: meat, wheat, dairy, fruit, and sugars. Everything else digests somewhere in the range of mildly to strongly alkaline.

My first measurable action was to test my alkalinity and I found it to be very acid. No wonder my body holding on to extra weight, it was protecting itself from the acid environment created by my food. I started to change, regularly testing my alkalinity as I went. There is no room here to go through all the small and large attributes of this change, but at the end of the day I found great substitutions for everything I really love to eat. As soon as my pH back to a neutral level my extra weight started to fall off. I quickly lost 30 pounds. Six months after I started my body was a completely different shape, I had more energy, and I was well on my way.

Upon reflection, alkalinity has become the foundation in my life for health. Do I always eat an alkaline diet? No, I try for somewhere between 70 and 80% of alkalinity. My greatest acid is coffee. If there are good vegetarian choices I take them. I try not to have both wine and meat at the same meal, therefore because I like wine I often eat vegetables. Do I stay exactly the neutral pH? No, but when my pH goes up I drink more water with powdered green substances such as wheat grass, barley grass, mixed greens etc. These with a little mineral salts and lots of water bring my alkalinity back into range within a few days. I never feel sluggish, and my energy drops below a level that is comfortable for the work that I have to do then I drink another liter of water with green drink.

Second Cycle: Bike Riding

Quite by accident, my partner and I rediscovered bike riding. Someone had stayed at our house, borrowed our bike and left it out. I suggested we go for a ride, it was a lovely summer, and we became quite addicted to pedaling our way through gorgeous Irish countryside.

Our measurable actions took the form of increased milestones. At first it seemed hard, nearly impossible to make up some hills. Then we began to add distance, leaving the car at our favorite coffee shop 15 km away and peddling there, enjoying a great breakfast and driving home. Soon we were adding more distance before the coffee shop and finally we were pedaling the whole way there and back.

Reflecting on what biking means to my life, it is a keystone in feeling young again. I am proud of the kind of hills that I can go up, not without work, but definitely an accomplishment. I thoroughly enjoy it. I love seeing this changes in the season in the familiar pathways. I love hearing the water lap against the stones as I ride along the edge of the sea. For the winter we are no longer training or working for greater milestones. That will start again in the spring. For now we in enjoy getting out four or five days a week, whenever it is dry. Bravery these days means risking a bit of rain or adding a more clothing and going out when it is very cold.

Third Cycle: Working out

I am still just discovering the joys of working out, having hated the idea of going to the gym for years. Spurred on by the success of my partner, and encouraged by a very good trainer at the gym, I now work out three times a week on Mondays Wednesdays and Friday mornings after my bike ride. The breakthrough for me was when the trainer taught me a technique called GBC. Started by German woman you work 15 minutes doing a total of eight exercises alternating legs and other part of the torso. One body part rests while the other is working and the whole effect is to burn fat.

Since this is new, my measurements are small. I’ve managed to go four consecutive times (a record). I’m growing more and more comfortable with being there. I enjoyed the push of the 15 minutes, and the fact that it was only a short period of time. I feel great with a lot of energy afterward. I continue to keep my eye on that getting firmer prize, but it’s still too early to ring that bell.

As I reflect on this last year, thinking back to where I was in January, I am doing things I would have never been able to see myself take on. I am different in my body. I feel 15 years younger. None of it seemed all that hard because my motivation towards the goal was greater than any of the challenges I faced. At the same time it was enough work that I’m determined never to backslide. I have a nephew who told me that it’s not how well we do exercise that counts, but how well we go back to doing when we stopped. My dedication is to keep regular measurement in my life (such as my pH level) that will catch me before I find myself once again feeling unhealthy.

I am also finding that I can recoup many of the types of motion that were lost to me. I think this is a major lesson for anybody over the age of 50. As an example I saw a woman in my water aerobics class squatting down, and I thought to myself , “I have not been able to do that for a long time.” The challenge is a mixture of stiffness in my knees and how it sort of hurts my calves and thighs when I try. Lately, twice a day, I squat down with a yoga mat up against the back of my knees (the rolled mat relieves some of the pressure). Then I push up using my arms for the inch until my legs kick in and raise me the rest of the way. The first one is always really hard but they get easier. After three or four I have so much energy released from my legs got a tingle. I have hopes to completely regain this lost ability.

It’s a journey. It’s not over. My greatest lesson is that it can be done – I now have great faith in that because of all the success I have enjoyed. I’ve learned that it’s the small things that create the milestones and that optimal health is no longer a dream but a destination.