I was fortunate to be raised by pretty health conscious parents. (Thanks Mom! Thanks Dad!)
We ate a lot of veggies, lean meats, fresh fruit and whole grain (i.e. whole wheat) everything.
Bread. Pasta. Muffins. Rice.
Our carbs were good healthy whole carbs.
We had treats here and there of course, but nothing like the kind of ramen, doughnut, cheese puff fare that the kids my age were eating.
And you want to know the craziest thing?
I was sick ALL the TIME.
Like stay-home-from-school-completely-miserable-not-even-faking-it sick.
I had strep throat, the flu (the flu that makes you shake your fever is so high), strep again, an inner ear infection in one ear, an inner ear infection in the other ear, a sinus infection, another sinus infection, bronchitis, an upper respiratory infection... and ON and ON... it was NUTS.
When I had a throat thing (and I almost always had a throat thing) my tonsils would get so inflamed and so large that the doctor would almost always say, "WOW... how can you swallow?"
What can I say... fancy tonsils.
BUT IT WASN'T FUN OR COOL OR AWESOME.
My skin was terrible.
My digestion was bad.
I was always (ALWAYS) sniffling (when I wasn't sneezing).
I was allergic to ev-er-y-thing. Pollen. Mold. Dogs. Cat. Dust. Horses. Hay. Grass. You name it.
I couldn't breathe (because yes, I had asthma too), so I was constantly using my inhaler.
I seemed to be in and out of the doctor's office way more than the average "healthy and active" kid my age.
And I was eating healthy!
Like really healthy.
And I was an athlete.
It didn't make any sense.
Then in my twenties - still dealing with all the same ailments, but on a bigger scale - I got pneumonia so bad I had to leave college and be nursed back to health. Then I got mono. Then I got debilitating eczema on my hands that was so bad I couldn't bend my fingers or touch water.
I couldn't wash my hair.
I couldn't do my job (coaching swimming) because touching chlorinated water really burned.
My hands cracked and bled so much, and I was in so much pain from the itching and burning that I had to go to the emergency room.
The super intense steroids they gave me made things worse.
No one could help me.
I got diagnosed with cancer.
And I felt the world close in on me.
I was 25 and uninsured and sick and miserable.
My health was an absolute disaster.
What the hell was going on?
Some of you know this story about me:
I had ovarian cancer. I caught it early on (stage one). I was slender and my ovary was large and the cancer was aggressive so it was hard to miss the growing bump in my abdomen. The malignant cells in one ovary grew to the size of a Thanksgiving turkey (not an exaggeration) seemingly over night.
Here's how the rest of the story goes:
I had surgery to remove the ovary.
I went through three rounds of chemo to be on the safe side.
I paid a lot of medical bills and went to regular check ups for FIVE years.
And I had a serious wake up call.
I had gotten sick. Really sick.
I was sick worse than I had ever been and I was exhausted.
I didn't want to feel bad all the time.
I KNEW it didn't have to be that way for me.
I started going to alternative practitioners, energy workers, healers, acupuncturists, therapists.
I looked at my body as a whole system that needed healing on multiple levels.
I dove in.
I was going to be a whole, healthy person, dammit.
I didn't care how long it took.
It took me years - YEARS - to get to a place where I can happily say that I'm healthier than ever.
I rarely sneeze.
I have a dog and a cat. <--- not allergic to them
I don't use my inhaler but a handful of times a year.
And I hardly ever get sick.
What. A. Change.
I'm so proud of myself for getting here.
I'm so proud.
But it really begs the question: why was I sick all that time?
Here's what I didn't know growing up...
What my parents didn't know...
What my doctors didn't know...
I was allergic to gluten.
And many other things, but those were the big ones.
And I was eating gluten.
And my body - my sweet, sensitive, brilliant body - couldn't handle the daily onslaught of "normal" food.
And so it responded.
Over and over and over again.
Trying to cope, to deal, to protect me from what was "normal" to other, but toxic to me.
It was no one's fault.
It was my health journey.
I'm glad I had it.
Now, as an adult, I have the daily choice to be really HONEST with myself about what I eat because I've finally, (FINALLY) put together the pieces of how my body responds to the food I give it.
If I eat gluten, my thyroid and digestive system will feel it. I will be tired. I will feel sluggish. I will be cranky. I will be hurting myself. I will be damaging my immune system. I will be more likely to get sick. I know this now.
If I eat dairy, my allergies will act up. I may not be able to breathe at night. I will feel sluggish. I will sneeze a lot more and sniffle all day. I will be more likely to get sick. I will feel miserable. I know this now.
If I eat sugar, my legs will itch and burn like crazy, keeping me up at night. I will have panic anxiety at night that's so intense, it will wake me up gasping for air. I will not be able to focus on the things I need to get done. I will feel depressed. I will lose hope in myself and in humanity (it gets really bad). I will feel bloated. My digestive system will revolt. I will gain weight. My inner critic will be SO MEAN and SO LOUD all the time, even about things I know I'm good at. I will feel out of breath and out of shape. I will be more likely to get sick. I know this now.
(Sugar is the WORST for me. JEEZ.)
I know these things now.
Besides one acupuncturist telling me I really should stop eating gluten because I have a thyroid issue, no medical professional helped me figure out these details about my body.
I figured it out.
In fact, I've had medical professionals argue with my about how my body responds to certain foods telling me that it doesn't make sense.
Listen, I wish my body didn't respond the way it does to sugar, but after 11 years of itchy legs that no one could cure, I was happy to figure that not eating sugar solves that problem.
There's another side to this story...
THERE WAS A LONG TIME I REFUSED TO STOP EATING THESE FOODS.
It took me years to give up gluten.
I didn't want to believe the dairy problem.
I still struggle with my sugar cravings.
I still eat the things sometimes knowing FULL WELL that I will feel bad because of them.
But I know what I'm getting into.
My eyes are OPEN.
Is there something that you're eating - maybe every day - that you know, full well, is making you feel like absolute crap?
Something that's making you suffer?
Something that's making you lose hope? Or itch? Or wheeze? Or get sick?
Something that it's REALLY time to give up consuming all the time?
It could be gluten and dairy and sugar like me. (Oh haaaaay. *snaps to you*)
It could be meat.
It could be alcohol.
It could be cigarettes.
It could be soda <---------- oh man, right?
Do you know what that thing might be?
Do you know what it might be like to feel good in your body without it?
These are questions, not judgments.
You're grown, and you get to do what you want. (Yay!)
But consider my story and consider how good you might feel without that thing that really isn't a fit for your body.
It could totally change your life for the better.