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My Health Journey: Part III

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

And so, here we find ourselves.


After 3 years of:


Is it candida?

Is it leaky gut?

Cry.

Is it SIBO?

Is it bacterial?

Is it IBS?

Cry. Research more.

Is it gluten?

Cry. Try another approach.

Is it too much fiber?

Cry.

Is it hormonal?

Cry.

Is it inflammation?

Is there structural damage?

Is it PCOS?

Is it insulin resistance?

Cry.

Try more probiotics.

Is it Hashimoto's?

Cry.

Is it irreparable?


....I was done. I couldn’t do it any more. I was exhausted from the stress of it all more than anything and I just threw my hands up.


I was right in the midst of working with the detox specialist (who is highly intelligent, pre-med background, very successful practice, it’s no reflection on her) when I just said, 'Nope. I’m done.'


I got this gut instinct to stop what I was doing and EAT. I got this clear message that said ’Stop what you’re doing, and turn around.’


And that was it.


Right then and there, I just... started to eat more. I started to eat things I had come to avoid out of fear they would 'slow down my detox.' Potatoes, rice, grains. Peanut butter, avocado. Things that I had become fearful of because my digestive fire was so low and they had proved too difficult.


( But keep detoxing, right?! ::eye roll:: )

……..

I ate more, and I'll be damned, it all started to improve.



A mere 3 weeks into this increase in calories, I got my period for the first time in months, and, I'm thrilled to say, I have had it regularly, on schedule, for the last 11 months in a row. (Now, did anyone I worked with ever ask me how much I was eating? No, they didn't. But I digress...)


I went on vacation just a couple weeks afterwards, and of course I ate whatever was available, no worries about whether or not it was 'perfectly clean'— just healthy and hearty vegan food.


And while I was on that trip, strange things started to happen.


My hunger seemed to really increase. I felt like I couldn’t get enough food in me. At the time, I thought it was just because we were hiking and active every day. But I was also noticing that my face seemed puffy, and I was having periods of sweating during the night. Again I shrugged it off and just thought it must have been all the salt from the restaurant food, and maybe being out of my own bed.

When I got home from the trip I serendipitously came across a YouTube video of a girl sharing her story about how dieting ruined her gut health.


My ears perked.


She talked about her past as a bikini competitor, and how rigorous the protocol was, and how bad her health became from all the restriction. She described symptoms exactly like mine. The constant bloating, the inability to digest almost anything, despite what you would describe as 'very clean eating.' She talked about how many doctors she went to and how they all told her nothing was wrong with her gut.


And then... another rabbit hole.


There were so. many. more. like her. All saying the same thing. Severe restriction led to a leaner body, yes, but also host of health troubles, especially digestive issues.


And all of a sudden… everything fell.


The question, "I’ve been eating cleaner than I ever have before, so why is my health the worst it’s ever been?’ was answered. And it went like this: My health is the worst it’s ever been because I’ve been eating the cleanest I ever have.


Now, I definitely wasn’t "restricting" restricting, like in a disordered way, but there was no denying- I had been eating very clean for a long time ( with good intentions! : / ) and had worked my way down to only being able to handle a few foods, PLUS I was very active, on my feet teaching dance classes every day. Ironically, it was all in the name of healing, but on paper, it just didn't compute.


The thing was, I never felt weak or tired or cold or anything you would associate with under eating or malnourishment. If I did, I surely wouldn't have continued. But what I learned is that your body has a weight range where it’s comfortable, and being even 5 lbs under that range can trigger issues. Just because I wasn’t ever dangerously underweight, doesn’t mean I was eating enough, or eating the right things. My body was still in a place it didn’t want to be.


So it seemed: in my attempt to clean out my system, I was actually depriving it of what it needed it order to carry out basic functions. SCORE! Lesson # 7: Cleaner isn’t always better, and less isn’t always more- especially when it comes to female health specifically!


And so, I continued on the journey that I had accidentally started before I even knew what was happening. My body took over and it knew what it was doing. It kicked in and told me to eat. And when I complied, it asked for more. And when I ate more, it asked for even more.


What I learned was that after a famine, there is always a feast.


And I also learned that there was a process to this re-feeding stage. I didn’t really think I was in any kind of deficit, but technically speaking, I was. And when the feast came, IT CAME. My hunger signals came back STRONG. I was eating foods and quantities that I hadn’t in years-- not because I was trying to cut them out to be on some diet, but because I just didn’t think they served me. I didn’t think they deserved to have a place in my life because they just didn’t offer me a whole lot!


I mean, what was a bagel doing for me besides bringing me joy, after all?

At that point, the lid was off. My body was asking- no, DEMANDING- high calorie foods, and a lot of them. 3 bagels at once, a whole (vegan) pizza, pints of (vegan) ice cream- anything just to get full. The thought of a salad actually made me sick to my stomach. I remember being horrified by that. But it was just my body’s way of telling me what it wanted and needed. (I'm back to enjoying salads today :wink wink: ) But then? No. Not vegetables- an entire bag of goldfish. Not a smoothie for breakfast- a smoothie and avocado toast and a muffin and cookies. It was like there was an animal inside me that came alive. My body completely took over and I was basically getting dragged along for the ride.


Now, I learned that there’s actually a science to this process, and it’s often used as a method for eating disorder recovery, or for olympic/pro athletes/marathon runners who need to re-feed after extensive periods of training. It’s called the Minnie Maud Method- based largely on the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. Unlike reverse dieting which has you slowly reintroduce more and more calories in a methodical and calculated way, Minnie Maud uses an approach commonly referred to as "all in." Basically, you allow the feast to follow the famine. Just like you would if you were in a real famine. You wouldn’t come across a feast and slowly eat a little more each day or week. Your body would beg you to feast to make up for all that it had been lacking. It sounds dangerous, like you would just eat and eat forever and become morbidly obese. But it’s just not the way it happens. Our bodies are so supremely intelligent. Eventually, when your body is sufficiently satisfied, your hunger tapers off and your body returns to homeostasis, as long as it senses that you are continuously feeding it enough. The process can take months or even years for some, depending on the history of deprivation.


So, as it turns out.. I was all in.


Annnnd, not to be dramatic, but.... Cue: the toughest fight of my life.


I thought I had suffered up to this point, but oh no. I didn’t know suffering.


Though the process is perfectly safe when followed properly, for a time, the body is out of whack and there can be some very difficult symptoms to deal with.


Bloating and gas come with a vengeance as your digestive system comes back online.


Your joints swell. You don’t sleep well, and you sweat at night as your metabolism begins to fire up again.


You are EXHAUSTED. You may tire even from a short walk. Your body begs you to rest and you feel like eating and sleeping are the only things you can bring yourself to do.


Your body stores water. SO. MUCH. WATER. to soften the blow of the trauma that’s happening, specifically around the stomach where the major organs are. (Yay..)

And of course, it goes without saying— you gain weight.


Now, I imagine this would be hard for anyone. But it was especially hard for me.


I had never, EVER liked the way I looked. I’m not proud of it, but I had long standing body issues stemming back to my early teens, so to have to gain weight on a body I never liked to begin with was truly Earth shattering for me. But.. I was willing to do it because I knew it had to be done, and actually, for the first time in 3 years, I didn’t feel frustrated with my body for not doing what I thought she should do. I didn’t want to control her any more, or do what I thought was best for her. All I wanted to do was nurture her.



And so began the REAL healing.



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