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My Health Journey: Part I

It’s hard to even know where to begin. But please let me say, if these posts helps you in any way to feel less alone, then I am overjoyed. When I was struggling to find answers and researching day and night and going down rabbit holes, I know how isolated and hopeless I felt. I am eternally grateful to those who shared their experiences because it gave me the small glimmers of hope I needed along the way to digging and keep searching and keep believing I would be well again. So if I can be that for someone else then I’m SO happy to. I can honestly say I’m grateful for this journey because I learned so much along the way that I was clearly meant to.

I really believe that our greatest challenges become our greatest blessings because they bring our greatest lessons.

So, here we go.

:takes deep breath: As sad as it is for me to admit, my health struggles started when I went vegan in April of 2016.

Now, this is not a story about how a vegan diet and lifestyle destroyed my health, so don’t jump to any conclusions ; )

Let’s rewind a little bit.

In 2015 I began to see heavy and consistent breakouts around my mouth. Nowhere else, just there. I had never really had problematic skin, aside from the occasional period pimple or two. But this was BAD and it was persistent. It led me to changing up my skin care products to more natural and safe alternatives, and I learned all about the harmful toxins in female beauty and personal care items. SCORE! Lesson #1: Conventional products are loaded with chemicals and endocrine disrupters which are linked to autoimmune disorders and cancers, so clean beauty is the way to go!

Now, as happy as I was to discover the world of green beauty, unfortunately, the breakouts didn’t clear.

And then it hit me:

This must be internal.

And so began the journey of researching what could be going on inside that was casing my skin to be so upset on the outside. I learned that our skin is an organ- our largest organ, AND a filtering organ. If something was showing up on the skin it meant there was a kink in the chain somewhere. I looked into face mapping, and it seemed to be the consensus that breakouts on the side of the mouth meant there was an issue with hormones and/or the large intestine (or, colon). SCORE! Lesson #2: Our skin is a window into our internal health.

And, then began the journey into gut health and hormones.

So, we're back to April 2016. I was getting to the bottom of my skin issues, when my sister asked me to join her group challenge for the month. She worked as a registered dietician at a rehab hospital and was always trying to promote and educate healthy lifestyle habits. So, she asked me to participate with her and I said, 'sure why not!' I had been looking for a reason to experiment without dairy and sugar which seemed to be big culprits in the acne realms. The challenge was to rack up as many points as possible doing things that were good for overall wellness— getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep, eating multiple servings of veggies, laughing, getting outside in nature, playing with an animal, having a dance party even! So I figured, as long as I’m keeping track of what I’m doing and eating, what better time to do an experiment!

(Now, I was already a vegetarian. I had naturally found myself being pulled away from eating meat a few years prior. I wasn’t even sure why. I remember wondering if it was going to turn out to be a phase or not. All I knew was that I became less and less interested in eating it, and over time it just naturally worked its way out of my diet. There weren’t any noticeable changes in my body or health, but I do remember it just feeling.. right.)

At the time I was eating eggs with cheese and toast every morning for breakfast, and greek yogurt and granola every day for lunch. I was also the type to stop in at Walgreens for toilet paper and leave with a snickers in the shape of a pumpkin, just because. I was eating processed sweets more often that I liked and wanted to break the habit.

So, I decided to go the month without dairy or sugar. At the same time, I also decided to go off hormonal birth control pill. I had been on it for 15 years- since I was 18- and I couldn’t see any reason to stay on it any more, knowing what I was learning about artificial hormones and pharmaceuticals. I didn’t want to be on anything that made hormones for me. I wanted my body to do what it was designed to do. (SCORE! Lesson #3: Artificial hormones interfere with the body's natural production.)

And let me tell you. After THREE DAYS, I was floored.

I was popping out of bed in the morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed.

I wasn’t experiencing allergy symptoms.

I ditched my daily morning coffee because I felt so clear headed and alert!

A couple weeks into this experiment, my Spring break started. I was teaching at the time and really needed the time off. I remember thinking, 'I don’t even want to see anyone for the whole week, I just want to cozy up on my couch and watch movies.' So, one night I decided to watch a documentary on Netflix about sugar called Fed Up. And then it suggested another: Forks Over Knives. And then another: Cowspiracy. And another: Food Matters. And another: What the Health. And another: Earthlings.

And that was it.

I was wrecked.

I was absolutely destroyed to learn about how the animal food industry operated. I was sick about it. It kept me up at night and I felt this surge of energy and this motivation to never eat a thing that came from an animal ever again. I was horrified and freed all at the same time. I had never felt so strongly about anything. I felt in my bones I was BORN to be a vegan. I couldn’t believe how blind I had been before. I was even a vegetarian, but I still had no idea. I had no idea what truly went on. From that time on, I wouldn’t contribute to the abuse and I wouldn’t put my health at risk. It was done. SCORE! Lesson #4: A plant based vegan diet dramatically decreases our chances of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.

And that’s where it all began.

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