It recently dawned on me that it has taken ten years to get to the root of my stomach problems. I can remember first feeling sick after eating in junior high. Now, ten years later I am better. I can say it now. I have no more stomach problems. This brings me so much joy I can’t even express it fully.
Often when I try to explain to others who I don’t see often, or who don’t know me so well, about my eating styles they get a pained look on their face and they reply with “I’m sorry,” “That must be so hard,” or “I feel so bad… what do you eat?”. Well the answer is, I eat a lot! I eat a huge variety of delicious, wholesome foods that make my stomach happy and make my body feel good. They in turn make me feel happy because when my body is at ease, I am at ease. You don’t have to be sorry for me, or feel bad for me about my choices, they’re choices that make me feel good and therefore improve my quality of life. Sure there are some restrictions, all of which I let loose sometimes- fully knowing the consequences (because fresh baked croissants are to die for and frozen yogurt is delicious) but for the most part I stick with this seemingly “strange” way of eating I have come to know, to respect, and to love. Because nothing beats feeling like you are at your optimum health. Nothing beats waking up every morning energized, falling asleep easily at night and spending your days feeling vibrant, joyful and alive.
It wasn’t always this way, though. It has taken many, many personal “revelations” for it to finally stick that making these changes could improve my life for the better in a way I never thought possible. For a long time, I thought by cutting all of the things that upset my stomach or make me feel less than prime would be a burden, that it wasn’t worth it. That I loved cheese and bread so much, cutting out most all cow’s dairy and gluten would be so hard it would just make me unhappy and a social outcast. That by listening to my body when it told me eating less meat was better for my digestion would put me back in the place of “that” vegetarian- the one who couldn’t eat at any of the restaurants I went with my family and friends, that it would only make my life harder. Sure, there are still some challenges that come up, but I don’t think that way anymore- eating this way no longer seems like a burden.
I don’t think the final wake-up call, so to speak, finally came until my detox in December. At this point I had been doing an experimental elimination diet, taking out dairy, gluten, soy and meat, trying to figure out for myself what foods made me feel good and what sent me reeling in pain- the results weren’t surprising, there is a lot that affects my body in a negative way. My husband and I like to joke that I am “broken” because of all my digestive issues. But the truth is, I don’t think of myself as “broken”. I actually think of myself as lucky. My body and I have a very intimate relationship, and no, that’s not what she said- it tells me when something is wrong and what it doesn’t like in a very bold way, and I have to listen. Often people go through their lives in less than optimal health and have no idea. Either they aren’t listening to their body or they aren’t recognizing the cues, but I feel lucky that my body’s cues are loud and clear and they allow me to fix them and make myself better. A great example of not recognizing a less than perfect state of health is my mom- she decided to help my sister, who recently found out she has an intolerance to gluten, go gluten-free by going gluten free herself for a week with my menus. I texted her a few days in to ask her how it was going, and she responded: “very good…. the crazy thing is I was just doing it to help her but I have been sleeping better then I have in a long time and feel great,”. I was so excited for her, and I responded back: “it’s amazing to discover you can feel better than you ever though you could, isn’t it?”.
This is exactly how I feel- like I am better than I ever thought I could be simply because I let myself be vulnerable and finally listen to my body. It responded- loud and clear, and for once- I did what it told me. During the detox I cut out gluten, dairy, soy, refined sugar, alcohol and caffeine. For most people, this type of restriction would make them irritable, maybe a little bit tired, common detox symptoms. I experienced some of those the first couple of days, but then…I felt amazing! It was incredible. I felt better than I ever have before in my life and I laughed hysterically at this- because “normal” people don’t feel amazing when they cut out 3/4 of their diet! But I was feeling better than ever, and I knew it meant there was time for a real change. I have since added back some of the items I removed in the detox, but not all of them. My symptoms- digestive, lack of energy, inability to sleep and more, have vanished, and I feel more energetic, healthy and alive than I ever have before.
It does present some struggles at times- eating out, for one (I like my own cooking anyway!), going on vacations, but I am quickly learning how to deal. I am serious about my health and confident about my decision to change my diet so I don’t feel embarassed to ask for different options on a menu or bring my own snacks, meals and condiments with me. Why would I risk losing this amazing feeling I have, this completely optimal state of health, for something I probably won’t even enjoy? I like eating this way, it tastes great and makes me feel good so I have no problem with it, and I rarely feel deprived. And if I do feel deprived, I indulge a little. I let myself have a piece of bread or some froyo. This doesn’t happen often, and things don’t affect me as much as they used to anymore now that I’ve pretty much cleansed by body. But I indulge fully knowing the consequences, and go right back to my usual eating habits the next meal or snack, because this is here to stay- my health is here to stay, my happiness is here to stay. Don’t feel sorry for me. You may think my ways of eating are strange, but to me- it’s no longer a burden.