Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Remembering the Importance of Health



Sometimes, the messages the universe is trying to send you get lost in all the noise.

Fortunately, the universe is bossy as hell and if we can't hear the message the first time, we get whacked over the head with it until we listen,

This happened to me recently, with a message about health, and it seemed worth sharing.

Usually I'm a health nerd- examples here and here. Gluten gives me red and flaky rashes, clogs up my nasal passages with phlegm, and makes me groggy. Cow's milk gives me headaches and stomach problems, as does soy. A little bit in small doses, though, doesn't do much damage- or so I thought. Because of this (false) idea, somewhere in the past year I started slipping.

The movement was small, at first- the occasional pastry here, the occasional bagel at a friend's because I didn't want to have others fret about how to feed me. I started adding the things I've always been sensitive to back into my diet for a lot of reasons. Partially because it's hard to be around normal eaters all the time and always explain that you can't eat whatever thing is available. It's easiest, though not always the most comfortable, to suffer in silence. It's also more convenient to be able to eat anything you want. It's pleasurable, too, especially when traveling. I didn't want to deny myself baguettes and croissants and crepes in Paris!

The last issue was hope. I didn't want to be so sensitive to so many foods. I wanted to be able to eat whatever I wanted, when I wanted.

So I started telling myself stories.

I don't react THAT badly to this food, I can have it once in a while.

It's probably just the chemicals from the manufacturing process, if I eat a higher quality product it will be fine.

I did this over and over and over again until it became normal for me to be eating things I have known sensitivities to (facepalm) at least a few times per week. In my desire to be able to eat "normally", I was blatantly ignoring all the signs my body was giving me that something was off. I was always sick, frequently tired, getting lots of headaches. My skin was pretty bad, my fingernails often broke or wore away at the edges, and I was grumpy... a LOT.

So I was ignoring all these signs and trying to be healthy and happy despite all my issues, but the universe wasn't having it. My immune system grew weaker and weaker until I got SICK. Sicker than normal. So sick I lay in bed for 72 hours straight, only getting up to sip water or use the bathroom. I didn't eat for two days, and on the third day all I could manage was a little toast. When I went to get a doctor's note so I could return to work, they told me I weighed 108 lbs (I' m usually in the 115-125 range).

I'd gotten sick partially because you know, the flu goes around in the winter. But also because I'd completely destroyed my immune system by eating so poorly. This was the beginning of my lesson. Somehow, I still wasn't getting the hint, and was back on my unhealthy-eating train as soon as I recovered.

Of course I got sick again. And again. Until my sickness was affecting my attitude, work performance and even my running.

At long last, it started to kick in. My running? Nope. Not happening. I would, apparently, sacrifice anything else in the name of eating whatever I wanted, but not running. I signed up for Seattle's Rock and Roll Marathon this June, but by the end of the first month of training was still only on 10-15 miles a week. I should have been on 35-40. How was I going to PR if I couldn't even log consistent weekly mileage?

My boyfriend helped, too, pointing out to me that I really was going out and having donuts or croissants every week, or making cookies and cakes or saying, a little of this won't hurt! while eating more and more of them. I started to realize that although I preach about eating veggies and focusing on health, I eat mostly.... chocolate, toast, fruit and pasta. I mean, I'd have the occasional omelette with spinach and I love cooking garlic with greens on the stove, but that's, what, a handful of veggies a week? That's not enough!

Finally, FINALLY I got the message the universe was telling me- it was reminding me to take care of my body and my health. Reminding me that I cannot be who I want to be, I cannot achieve my goals, without this. And maybe in learning this, I'm supposed to be sharing it as well.


THE FIX

Here are the tools I'm using every day to get back to an optimal state of well-being, in order to live in a way that makes me truly happy. If you, too, want to exist as your best self, I recommend these actions.
  • Make it a damn priority, Your HEALTH is important because YOU are important. Health impacts EVERYTHING you do! It affects your energy levels, mood, immune system, skin, hair, vision... it affects everything. So prioritize eating nutritious meals filled with vegetables, fruits, nuts and other whole foods. Choose organic whenever you can and don't eat processed junk food. If you're sensitive to gluten or dairy, like me, avoid it. It is worth it! After a while, the cravings will go away. Anyways, with a little effort, creating a diet free of gluten/dairy can be even more delicious than the one you're accustomed to.
  • Get inspired and stay inspired. Read books, watch films, pull recipes from cookbooks. I recently watched At The Fork, which was a really interesting look at the animal farming industry, and I'm currently reading Happy Gut and Eating Clean. My parents also gifted me Shalane Flanagan's Run Fast, Eat Slow for Christmas and there are SO many easy, delicious, healthy recipes! If you're not a big reader then try watching something. Cooking shows abound on Netflix, and you can always look on Youtube as well. I love Mimi Ikonn's videos in general, but she has a few "What I Eat in a Day" videos where she shares some simple, healthy food.
  • Create new experiences! Keeping it exciting drives away the boring-salad stereotype of health. When I'm at the farmer's market I've started either finding something I've never seen before and buying it or asking the stall owners for a "weird vegetable". Last week I cooked some romanesco (basically a cross between cauliflower and broccoli), made lettuce wrapped with baked daikon radish, and sliced into some kind of produce that tasted, according to my boyfriend, like "a cross between a tomato and a cantaloupe".
  • Tie your health goals in with your other goals so that you have even more incentive to stick with it. For me, health affects my running, which is hugely important, and also my wallet. Choosing to make my own food instead of buying snacks out saves so much money, and a banana with almonds as a snack instead of a pastry can be anywhere from 1/3 to 1/6 of the cost!
  • Finally, eat mindfully. Think about your food and where it came from, how it will benefit you, etc. Do some kind of eating meditation- you can find guided versions on the internet or just create your own by really being present during a meal. And for goodness' sake, sit down while you eat!


It's only been a week or two but except for one or two slip ups, I've avoided all the things I know I should avoid. I've made Shalane's carrot ginger soup, some sausage and vegetable stews, experimented with tempeh and a bunch of unfamiliar Asian ingredients, made stir fries, soups, stews, fresh tacos with avocado mango salsa, taken lots of excited meal pictures on Instagram... This whole process is much easier when you're excited about it, and I feel so much better. Another reason why health and digestive health is especially important for your life and livelihood? Food has an impressive ability to change your ability to have a positive outlook. It affects your immune system, self image and confidence, energy levels... Essentially, being healthy and eating well is like a miracle drug that solves a ton of problems. 

And honestly... it's not that hard. It just takes a little bit of effort and once you start seeing the results and the way your health affects your life, you won't want to go back!

Thoughts? Questions? Recipe ideas? Comment below! 

Thanks for reading!

2 comments:

  1. So glad you're listening to your body! The months of sickness sound terrible, and I'm glad you've figured out how to feel more energetic and healthy :) This reminded me of traveling with a friend who has a dairy allergy and he was so bummed he couldn't eat a lot of the food we ate in Italy and Greece that he just ignored it and started eating eating dairy. Granted it was only for a couple of months, and he didn't actually have strong symptoms during the trip, but I remember trying to find non-dairy food for him in case he was feeling self conscious about needing a different diet than us, and hope you remember your friends aren't fretting or inconvenienced!

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    1. Thanks Grishma! That's actually so cool to hear the perspective of someone who isn't allergic themselves but watching a friend struggle with it. You're a kind person to offer help instead of feeling frustrated. :)

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