Today, I’m sharing my personal healthy living journey and approach to nutrition. Learn how I got to where I am today and how much feelings on food and wellness have changed over the years.
My Healthy Living Journey & Approach to Nutrition
Hi Everyone and Happy Wednesday!
Today, I’m sharing a bit about my personal healthy living journey. The reason I started this blog so many years ago was to document my first candida detox. It clearly evolved into so much more. Back then, I shared my story, but it was in all lowercase letters – because I thought it looked cool and would never want to switch to upper case – and the pictures were really old. I decided it needed an update, so grab a warm bevvy…or summer bevvy and let’s get started.
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I remember the first time I ever really experienced ‘heart burn’ or stomach pain. I was in high school, studying for my senior finals. It was unbelievable pain – the worst stomach pain I’d had, but not the worst I would experience – and my mom ended up taking me to hospital. They gave me this menthol-y green sludge and it made me feel better. I left with a prescription for my first stomach medication – a pink and teal pill that would help with my acid reflux.
This was also the first gut reaction I had to increased stress. I’m pretty positive the two were directly related. Something that would follow me throughout the next few years.
I went to college and stayed on my pink/teal pill. I didn’t restrict any foods or really change my eating habits much until my senior year of college. At that point, I decided to start eating healthier, as I started working out and running. However, I still included gluten and dairy in my diet…and the occasionally ranch dressing drizzle in my Panini wraps for lunch.
A FEW MONTHS AFTER COLLEGE GRADUATION
The next big flair up and what started many many months of digestive distress was about a month or so after The Hubs and I started dating. At that point, I still had some classes to finish, even though I ‘walked’ with my class. I was working part-time, looking for a full-time job, volunteering and just started a new relationship. I’m sure I was a bit stressed, which could have been the trigger.
My ‘acid reflux’ was so bad that I had difficulty swallowing and eating any food at all. Nothing seemed safe and I started losing weight, understandably. I can’t remember how long this went on, but I’m thinking about 2 weeks or so. The doctor, of course, provided no real help other than a new pill – this one was purple. This was in early fall of 2010 and in early winter, I went for an endoscopy. The doctor said, ‘everything looks good’, which would soon be an all too familiar phrase. He kept me on the purple pill and told me to avoid foods that would ‘flair up’ my reflux.
The time between the very end of 2010 and mid-2012 is a bit of a blur. I still had ‘episodes’ and flair ups, but nothing as crazy as what was to come.
THE BOSTON SAGA
I’ll put my first big issue in Boston around May-ish, or there abouts. At the time, I was working at least 2 jobs – one of which was Starbucks. Either the 4:30AM – 1-ish shift or the 5:30pm – 1:30AM shift – and volunteering as State Director of a non-profit. I was also managing to somehow pay rent and do fun things, including continuing to date The Hubs. I can’t remember if I was taking a pill for my acid reflux at this point or not. I just remember a bad few days of stomach pain. Then it was blood in my stool, for a least 2 weeks. Then it was doctor’s appointments, tests for H. Pylori, Crohn’s, Celiac’s and any other digestive issue that would cause my symptoms. Guess what ever doctor told me… ‘Everything looks good’. Then can what the heck is going on?! My symptoms could be ‘normal’.
THE FIRST SUGAR DETOX
I did manage to find a doctor in Boston that tried to look at food as a potential cause. Her recommendation was to go on a Fructose-Free diet. You can imagine how that went, fructose is in everything. Luckily, she only had me on it for a couple weeks.
At this point, I was very thin. I could eat half a quart of ice cream, slices of pizza, anything and I wouldn’t gain a pound. I was also running and exercising. I remember an 8 mile run at one point, so I’m pretty sure the running was frequent enough to cause a lot of extra stress. I was also not getting my period. All kinds of not good things happening here, friends. Lots of stress. And as we’ve seen thrice now, stomach issues follow stress.
To top it off, I decided to get a job – full-time – at a group home for troubled girls. I am a firm believer nowadays that when I don’t listen to things my body is telling me, the Lord puts in a place where I am forced to listen. This was one of the first times it happened. Talk about stress overload. After about a month of being miserable, I talked to my mom one day after work, telling her that I wanted to come home. I gave my two weeks at my job and was home about 2 weeks later. It sucked leaving Boston, leaving my roommates and leaving The Hubs.
THE LAST STRAW
When I got home, I went back to LOFT part-time. It was almost November and I needed a bit of time to relax and heal. Then I got a job working for an anti-trafficking organization in Ohio – my dream job at the time. But a week later, I found out they didn’t get the funding to hire me. See, another time when I should have just STOPPED. Lord told me what was up. Basically, the shit hit the fan and I needed a little time to clean up. My stomach continued to get worse. The doctor at home gave me a medication to take every 4 hours for my pain, in addition to that infamous purple pill. However, it didn’t help. I remember one day, in the kitchen, being doubled over in pain, my stomach hurt so bad. Medication every 4 hours was not working. After talking with 2 friends that had gut issues, one of which recommended a holistic practitioner, I decided it couldn’t hurt to go in for an appointment.
In the first meeting, one of the very first questions I was asked had to do with what I was eating! No other doctor (except that one in Boston, barely) thought to bring up the idea of what food I was eating. Not even the multiple gastroenterologists? Her recommendation was for me to get a blood allergy test to learn more.
The results came back with incredibly high marks for gluten, dairy and soy. Along with moderate marks for a host of other foods, including salmon, eggs, rosemary and a few nuts. I was diagnosed with leaky gut, told to complete a week long liver detox and a 6 month elimination diet for all foods that were 2 or higher on my list.
For the first time ever, I felt relief. I felt like a doctor understood what was going on and that they wanted to help. The detox and elimination diet were daunting, but I needed to feel better.
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THE FIRST ELIMIATION DIET
I like to say my healthy living journey REALLY began when I started my liver detox. It was scheduled end it the day after Christmas…why? Why? I couldn’t even eat what was made for Christmas dinner; I made my own! The liver detox was horrible. I felt like shit. I got sick and slept the entire first day. It was rough. I was down to my lowest weight ever. The first two days were nutritional shakes that I drank 3x/day and the third day started to incorporate real food. My mom took me grocery shopping – I was a wobbly mess – and had my first experience doing food prep. I planned all my meals for the week and made sure I rotated all my foods, so I didn’t eat the same thing two days in a row. My family bought be gluten free and vegan cookbooks for Christmas and I got bags of nuts, as well. The gifts for a forced health food nut.
After a few months, I started feeling enormously better. The first month or so was spent eating cashews by the can, in order to put on some weight. But, when my body finally started absorbing nutrients, it was a game changer. I started to workout again, a little bit. I began to enjoy my new way of eating. By my 5 month check-up, I was off a steroid inhaler I’d been taking since I was a kid. Cutting out gluten and dairy helped my asthma so much. Just a few days shy of the ending of my elimination diet and the day I finished my first half marathon, The Hubs and I got a giant burger, waffle fries with cheese and bacon and ice cream. This would be my first experience of what gluten and dairy will do to your body, after not eating them for an extended amount of time. I crashed, big time.
After I was technically ‘free’ of the elimination diet, I ate my ‘not safe foods’ on occasion. But overall, I pretty much stuck with a more ‘Paleo’ focused lifestyle for a while. I took a brief stint as a vegetarian after watching a documentary, but my energy levels were so low, I couldn’t sustain it.
At the end of 2013, I went to my now Dietitian after just feeling like something was off. Turns out, I had candida. And it felt like I would never be well! Another 3 month elimination diet with no fruit and only certain carbs. It was pretty sucky. My treat, which again, was a few days before the ending, after a race, I had a green apple. Talk about sweet!
Now, I had about 3 months of being seemingly ‘free’ of any kind of stomach issues, until candida crept back in early 2014, and another sugar detox happened. I still wasn’t getting a consistent period and I was still a little too thin. Somewhere along the lines, I realized I was obsessing. It’s so easy to do, right, especially when you have sensitives to certain foods. I was nervous and refused to eat gluten and dairy for a while, because I knew that pain would follow. The hurt far outweighed the moment of delight.
To make an already long story short, I decided to tried to stop stressing. I tried to actually enjoy my way of eating. I switched up my workouts, started lifting heavy things – gaining weight and muscle, which made me a little nervous, but was really the best thing ever. And my period started coming back. It meant I was finally healing. There wasn’t really any special formula to this – and honestly, I don’t remember what I did – I just can’t remember any big issues that happened after the second candida detox.
These days, I’m just focusing on eating healthy foods and enjoying my not always healthy favorites – chip and M&M’s. I will say that marrying my husband has made me much less strict with my diet. He has no stomach issues and will eat almost anything. We’ve spent many a night noshing on chips and M&M’s. In the past year or so, at certain times, I’ve tried to cut back on meats and eat more plant protein. I’ve tried to cut back on carbs, specifically grains, taking a more paleo approach. I’ve tried swearing off sweets completely.
The thing is, listening to your body is so much more effective than any diet, at least for me. When I eat more sweet things than my body would like, I crave salads or green superfood smoothies. I’m much more aware of my hunger cues, these days. I’m not obsessing over eating too many grains in a day. I’m learning to be happy with my body and the way it works.
This whole thing, this healthy living journey, is full of ups and downs. Some days are great, some months are great and others not so great. It’s like with any journey. What’s important to me is how I respond in the times when it’s not so great and remembering not too go overboard when it is great. In those initial months after my first elimination diet, I wanted to go back to the way I was eating before, I did too much too fast and it was not pretty. Enjoying certain foods in moderation and allowing for treats (like my 3 doughnuts this weekend) is just fine, as long as you are aware.
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My Approach to Nutrition
I want to preface this by saying that my approach is always evolving and just because I take this approach right now, doesn’t mean that later on down the road, it won’t change based on experience and circumstance.
My approach to nutrition is pretty simple: choose whole, nutrient dense foods that will fuel your body and make you feel your best. Like the paleo approach and how good it makes you feel – go for it. Want to eat plants and stay away from meat – great, do it to it. I think certain ways of eating work better for certain people and not for others. I think certain body’s do not handle certain foods as well as others. I think there is alot of shit in our food these days and if you choose to cut out, say, conventional dairy because of the hormones and such, then by all means, steer clear. If you want to eat a doughnut, eat the damn doughnut. Make conscious choices and steer clear of food labels. Overall, I think your food should make you happy.
And, with everything, listen to you body. It will tell you exactly what it needs.
So, tell me:
What does your healthy living journey look like?
Have you ever built anything on your own?