I have been writing and re-writing this blog post, continually getting stumped at the same place. I am having trouble expressing what it is that I would like to say... I have two main things I want to get off my chest in this blog post.
I am a direct person. One of those people who, when presented with facts will go away, do further research and make choices based on the data. This is what I have done with my own health journey and why I chose to study with the NTA. I also reserve the right to change my stance as more information is presented and to follow the logic as new research is coming out all the time. I also find it very easy to action changes for myself and in my lifestyle once I find the grounding in logic in which to base them. I can easily give up food and beverages cold-turkey, eat other things that need to be included for their vitamin/mineral/probiotic content and do not allow emotional hang-ups to get in my way with my health choices.
In saying all this, I find the more I work with people, either acting as a guide or teaching them, the more I realize that my way of facing these things is perhaps…not the norm. I am currently doing the Precision Nutrition Level 1 cert to get better at helping encourage people who are not like me. I try very, very hard NOT to come across too cut-and-dry, or hard-nosed about making lifestyle changes because I also realize more and more that food for most people is
A) a coping mechanism
B) harbours strong emotional ties
C) can be a crutch and
D) often addictions (specifically to sugar) can make for some very irrational behaviours.
All of these things making it difficult for folks to give up foods that are literally hurting their bodies –even when they KNOW these things are bad for their health!
Where I might be like a relentless bulldozer able to roll along a path towards a goal and run over or crush anything (cravings, desires, habits) to get there, that is not the way for most people. Most people need to make small changes over time. They need to make and re-make the same mistakes in order for lessons to be learned. This way of doing things can make these changes very sloooowww and protracted, and can draw out cravings and so on, (which is why I choose not to take this approach for myself) but ultimately, when a person embarks on their journey towards more vibrant health they are responsible for their own changes and I can only try to help give support. My being completely blunt would not always serve when a gentle touch and some hand-holding are required. (although if pressed I daresay I ccould open a few serious cans of blunt reality gut-check if needed).
Secondly: I want to talk about health journeys. Specifically, mine.
I have recently come to realize that in order for some people to trust what I have to tell them, after all this reading, learning, asking questions, going to school, looking at studies and so on, they really would like be able to identify with me.
I know I do not have a visibly dramatic success story to share. I know most of you probably think I have always looked like this, and you would be right as I am a naturally small-framed person. What you don’t see is all the stuff that goes on under the surface of our bodies, even for a person who has always been naturally thin. And that’s really what I want to help people with, because if your goal is to change the outside, then it’s really the inside gut and digestive stuff that needs to be balanced and fixed first.
My changes have all predominantly been below the surface. Here is my litany of issues:
You can only take it on good faith when I tell you that I used to get sick 5 or 6 times a year. That bronchitis was something that happened a few times, strep, and even pleurisy, and shingles! I was constantly battling with canker sores inside my mouth, often several at a time, and they came in cycles. I had seasonal allergies any time I wasn’t at sea and a really strong allergic reaction to cats. Every day I woke up and my sinuses were stuffed up. My entire life I would get what we (my mom and I) started calling “gassy pains”. This started when I was a child. Into adulthood, every few weeks I would have the most incredible gut pain, needing to drink something hot and literally lay draped upside-down over a piece of furniture to try to move what I thought was trapped gas along my intestines. I thought that was normal.
In my 30’s I started getting adult acne, a few painful cystic-type spots that would come and go…I spent a lot of money changing all my skin care products and makeup thinking that would solve it. (It didn't) I also had dry skin. I had been on birth control for 16 years and was afraid to go off it due to how erratic my cycle had been prior and the amount of pain I experienced every month. Every day I was exhausted in the middle of the afternoon, it didn't matter what time I went to bed and how much sleep I got. Feeling hungry every couple of hours was also a fact of life with me becoming irritable and hangry in between meals, requiring some kind of snack.
Worse, as I got into my early 30’s, it was harder and harder to keep the fat off. I would spend a couple hours in the gym daily, 30-45 minutes running on the treadmill and then the rest of the time using the machines and free weights and still the scale was creeping up very very slowly. I am convinced that had I not embarked on the changes that I did then I would actually look different than I do now.
My adult all-time lowest weight occurred in South East Asia after several months of battling with parasites…I hit an all-time low of 95 lbs. I am 5’ 5”. That is terrible. I was 25 years old at the time. By age 34 I was about 116 lbs. Still low, but photos show that I looked a lot more fragile than I do now.
When I initially changed how I ate and dropped all vegetable oil, grains, legumes and sugar (although there really wasn’t a lot of that in my diet), I lost over 12 lbs of inflammatory water weight. Since autumn of 2011 I have been steadily laying on mass. I am back to 116-120 lbs but wear smaller clothes than before.
What other changes have happened? Well, I don’t become an evil dragon if I don’t get food every 2.5 hours. I can miss meals or extend my eating window as my day requires and it is no big deal…especially useful when traveling. I don’t have that afternoon dip in energy where I feel like a nap is essential.
My “gassy pains” went away. Completely. Have not had those in 6 years. Also, I don’t really every have much gas in general…so not a lot of passing wind. (TMI, sorry). I also rarely, if ever, get sick. Now it happens once every couple of years, and if I am starting to come down with some sort of bug, my body fights it off pretty quickly. I don’t have any more seasonal allergies and now can visit people with cats and unless I bury my face in the cat’s fur, I can be there with little trouble! My cycle also regulated itself like clockwork after I went off the pill and changed how I ate.
My skin discoloration has lessened *I forgot to mention my struggles with melasma in my early 30’s* and now I know that if I eat cheese or have excessive dairy, THAT is when I can expect to get a cystic acne spot a few days later...This means I can CHOOSE to eat things I love (hello, stinky cheese) knowing the consequences. I do not wake up with a stuffy nose on a daily basis…as I have found out that that little symptom (for me) is directly related to corn consumption. Should I eat out and have a sauce thickened with corn starch, or eat a cob of corn, then the nice green scary stuff will be coming out of my nose the next morning for sure (more TMI…sorrrryyy). I get gassy only if I eat wheat products…no matter how little. One little finger tip of cookie dough will give me the sweats, a stomach ache a few hours later and then gas and bloating and lots of not-so-great bathroom experiences for several days. (I have learned these things the hard way)
My skin is better, my nails are stronger, my hair is fuller. I weigh more but have a lower body fat percentage that remains fairly easy to maintain. More importantly, I can call on this body to do what I ask, whether it be moving house (3 times last year alone), hauling bags of manure to distribute in the garden, climbing ladders and balancing on things to do work around our house, and basically, living my LIFE as best I can and as vibrantly as I can.
I won’t say that all of my issues are solved, or that new things haven’t cropped up with time- and that’s the thing about a lifetime- you cannot temporarily make a few changes, maybe get to feeling better then go back to what you were doing before without expecting to slide back. Nor can you ever think that new issues may not occur as you age, as you peel back the layers of your symptoms, sometimes uncovering old or new issues as others resolve. This is how I discovered that I am actually hypothyroid...who woulda thunk THAT?!? AND that was only discovered due to a crazy change in total cholesterol numbers over a very short period of time (but I found a doctor willing to dig deeper and not just prescribe statins) since I don't display any outward signs of low thyroid.
I also suspect that now at 41 my body is getting ready to start changing and winding down it’s reproductive processes so there’s bound to be fun to come, however, I am committed to supporting this with good food and nutrients so that all goes as smoothly as possible.
That is basically my journey. I think if I hadn’t made the changes I did almost 7 years ago when I was 34, I would have had the typical creep of symptom layering on top of symptom. The “normal” aches and pains everyone seems to think is a part of aging, and I would have had to work harder and harder to maintain my body weight, likely slowly losing the battle. I would have been put on statins, would be taking allergy meds, continually on antibiotics for reoccurring bouts with bronchitis. If I had decided that my gastric issues were not normal, I think there would have been a litany of meds to try to stop those symptoms as well. Who knows where I would be.
However, having taken the steps I have, I am very happy to say that these things have not occurred. Even better: I am fitter, more active, stronger, and happier as a result! The changes I have made to my diet and lifestyle, paying attention to sleep quality and stress on top of movement and nourishment are all working together to make my middle years awesome, and I am so excited to be here and living like this! My not-so-visible journey has lead to some fairly visible changes to my body that I am proud of. I can’t wait to see what the future brings!!
6+ years of consistency, learning what works, avoiding what doesn't. Still enjoying my life, but loving feeling so full of life and energy that making better choices is not a struggle!