Life Lately: A Health Journey

I’ve always loved food. It’s one of the things that most excites me in life.

My world revolves around it –> making food, sharing food, trying new food, talking about food, finding new restaurants, and thinking about my next meal. It’s in my blood. Not to mention outwardly, I have this food blog, write for many food publications, and now professionally work in the industry.

Just like any woman I know, despite loving food, the relationship with my body, health, and food is a dynamic ever-changing one. And of course, I’ve had my struggles.

I’ve always been active and involved in sports. I’ve also never fit into a physical box as a short, curvy girl. It’s hard to find clothes that fit right and I always lamented I couldn’t share clothes with my friends (while they all could with each other it seemed).

It started at age 15 when I first went to Weight Watchers.

Despite daily horse back riding, basketball, track, and generally growing up playing outside in the countryside of Iowa, I felt even in high school I needed to be tracking my points. And from there on out, I probably never felt truly satisfied with how I looked and struggled with self esteem. Looking back now, I cringe at how healthy, happy, and fit I looked as a high schooler.

I’ve probably tried every diet that exists and of course, none of them last.

Then last year, I had one of the most emotionally stressful and challenging years of my life. I was commuting 2+ hours a day, working 70 hours a week in a job that was grueling in an environment that just didn’t fit me. I felt lost and like nothing I did was good enough. I was really unhappy.

I had left a job I loved in a supportive company after five years and I had no job lined up in late 2016. After a few months, I thought I had found the next best thing.  Everything on paper checked out.

It wasn’t the case.

After being laid off (ironic – universe telling you what you need and/or what you put your attention on grows) from said difficult/trying job after 10 months, I luckily had a job already lined up. It still wasn’t easy.

They made some shifts before I could quit so many would call it a blessing in disguise. I enjoyed the severance and parting ways amicably as they headed in another direction as a company. Immediately following I had an offer letter signed with a totally new industry, away from technology, with a longtime mentor and prior boss of mine.

I aimed to take off the rest of the year to unwind and get my old self back.

After some routine blood work as we headed into the 2017 holiday season, I uncovered some health issues.

I was surprised and confused.

I have adrenal fatigue, my cortisol levels are too low (effectively my stress hormones have shut down, I don’t have the right tools to even deal with stress until I repair those), am experiencing insulin resistance with way-too-high insulin (sugar) levels, I have newly uncovered thyroid issues with antibodies present, despite my total cholesterol being normal my triglyceride levels are off the charts, I have the gene mutation MTHFR, and I have a slew of hormone imbalances. All which have implications for impending diseases like pre-diabetes, heart health complications, infertility issues, and more.

Although there are no official diagnosis yet, the plan is to undergo lifestyle shifts to swing the pendulum back to a place of balance, and see if I can heal all the above mentioned through food.

The first two weeks I was baffled and even more stressed than before. I was confused, processing, and feeling like I had “done” this to my body.

Although there are some genetics at play, so much of this can be fixed through lifestyle shifts.

I was a few months into my new job and “new me” but felt harshly reminded that I wasn’t in the clear yet.

I had lost mindfulness over the last year and stress had shut down so much of my body. It has been years since I dieted, and was just living a full life but also not thinking too much either.

I always have eaten healthy and have worked out at least 3-5 times a week my whole life as an active hiker, snowboarder, yoga-goer, I cross-fitted for years, and always have had a gym membership. Nonetheless, I also love indulging and due to the food blog, eat out and try new restaurants a lot.

Being raised vegetarian, I deviate to a lot of carbs (e.g. beans, rice, grains, etc.) that are high in sugar and in moderation good for you, but less protein and more sugar-rich foods weren’t helping.

I don’t own a scale and am not into that mental mind game. Yet, from doctors visits, I also know I weigh the most I’ve ever weighed and have gained 30 pounds in the last few years. I didn’t even realize – most friends don’t even notice, but it’s something.

Ultimately, I know the stress has been the trigger and my body hasn’t been able to work as it should to take care of itself.

Here I am today, 30 days in. I’ve jumped into a journey of healing myself from the inside out.

I’m drastically reducing my sugar and carb intake to almost none. I’m not eating dairy, gluten, or grains and not drinking alcohol. I’m doing this for 12 weeks until we re-test and see how things looks.

I struggle with intense changes like this. It’s not graceful for me. It’s not quite sustainable and I travel for work too, so I’ve had to change a lot of habits and am constantly navigating the ups and downs.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that everyday is a bit of a struggle. I think: what can I eat, will I have time in between this meeting in another city to find the right type of food, saying no to drinks at client dinners, and more.

I’m still adjusting quite a bit. But despite a few planned ‘cheat days’ with weekend trips or parties, I haven’t really strayed. I’m lucky to have a partner that is joining me on the journey and being so steadfast, despite my challenges and oscillating emotions and a support system that sends me recipes and rallies for me from all corners of the country.

Although I’ve never had acne issues, just in general my face is clearer, I’m sleeping better, and I am starting to have more energy. I’m listening to myself more than ever and trying to see what feels good to eat versus mindlessly eating without thinking.

I struggled with even writing something here but realized in the last month, so many people are in similar boats. Or are adjusting something in their lifestyle to accomodate X issue. It doesn’t have to be taboo and I also recognize everyone’s journey is different. I’m not a medical professional (I’m working with a naturopath who specializes in hormone balancing with women) but I do hope to share some of the products, dishes, and tips I’ve learned along the way in hopes that someone may relate.

I’ve found solace in others that share their story so I’m doing the same.

Ultimately, I know I’m lucky. This isn’t a cancer diagnosis, and I also didn’t experience anything that’s totally life altering. It’s intense stress, a real bad year, and we all face it in many different ways.

Still, it’s a radical shift so yes, it’s scary and hard. But in learning what I have in the short amount of time on this journey, I understand so many women face hormone issues that we don’t have to live with.

This to me is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. We only get one body so I plan to heal and take care of mine.

I’ll add one thing that’s really important to me: I understand that acceptance and happiness around self image and our bodies starts within. It’s about listening to yourself, doing what you need, and finding a balance that’s fulfilling. Specifically, this is something that’s for my health and not to get to a specific size or look a certain way. This is medically something that I need to do to help regulate some issues, before it gets any worse…

Next week I plan to share some of the tips that have been best in this journey thus far. Thanks for being here.