I wanted my very first post on SkinnyMom to have a celebratory, introductory “go me” theme, but it appears as though I’m going to stick with reality instead.

I’m a full-time agricultural reporter, a single mom, and I do a lot of freelance writing as well. And as of recently, I am also a volunteer fire fighter too. I used to own a community newspaper in a neighbouring province, but I had to give it up, and that’s when we moved here – to Southwest Alberta – just over a year ago.

We live on a rented ranch 20 minutes from town, and I work from home most days, sometimes having to leave to cover events and news happening around the province. The isolation is awesome. We don’t even own a microwave. Our trips to town are planned around my sons’ schedules, and my firefighting schedule – as a result, I have very little impulse temptation when it comes to food.

I can’t just order a pizza. A round-trip to town with one or two stops means $20 or so in gas and an hour of my time. What I’ve learned is that if I don’t buy processed food, I don’t make processed food. And without the ease of a microwave, even when I’m tempted to buy a quick and easy solution, it’s never actually very quick, and I just don’t bother.

It’s worked out well. The fresh air, the healthy food and a slow but steady (and growing) commitment to physical fitness have resulted in a weight loss of 43 pounds so far, and I’ve never felt better.

But this week I realized something important – it’s about so much more than eating, or even commitment. You see, this week I have been working around the clock on a really important story. Investigative journalism is what I love the best, and as hard as this week has been so far, my brain has loved every titillating second of it.

But I’ve had to skip all my workouts. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I usually get up at 4:30 in the morning, and arrive in town for 6 a.m. to join some of the other members of our EMS and fire department for a specialized workout called Fit for Duty. I’ve only been going for a few weeks, but I love it. The department pays for the class for those who attend, and I get the chance to work out in a real gym. Then I spend the rest of those days in town, doing my interviews and writing from the fire hall. That way, if there’s a call, I can attend. When I’m working from home, my response time is just too slow. Those are also the days I get my mail, and the kids do their afterschool activities. And this week, I missed both.

On my other days at home, I meet my neighbour for a power walk, and I workout from home too. I cancelled on her the entire week, and I feel horrible about it. The meals I make at night, and the lunches I slap together to send the kids to school with have been quick and sloppy. Not processed, but not as complete or as high quality as I try to strive for.

That’s when I had my epiphany. I haven’t been able to stick to my routine because I’ve been exhausted, and I’m exhausted because I’m getting only three hours of sleep a night. I’m only getting three hours of sleep every night, because my other 21 hours have been spent working.

Of course, being up so late and for so long means by body is craving energy and I am scouring the cupboards looking for easy fuel. I’m not finding any chocolate, chips or candy, but I can assure you I’ve been eating far too many rice chips, cutting off way too many slices from the block of extra old cheddar to accompany far too many whole grain crackers.

When I still had my newspaper, I ran like this every day for nearly two years. Except that back then, I still bought processed foods, take-out, and lived on candy and pop to help keep me going. I had everything invested in it, and I was sacrificing everything to keep it – including my health.

Having a work-life balance is so incredibly important. It doesn’t matter how badly I want to be healthy if I don’t have the basic foundation of health to build from. Regular sleep, down time, weekends off and enough time and energy for food preparation are of critical importance to my success.

It’s true that we all have choices and we can all take control of how we eat and the state of our bodies. But for some of us, those choices might include giving up a profession, or a business. Though I was utterly heartbroken when I lost my paper to bankruptcy, maybe I was actually lucky because that decision was out of my hands.

I know I wouldn’t have made the right one, but I’m so grateful that circumstance has brought me where I am today.

What a difference one week can make.