Okay darlings—today’s post is a long one. But it’s one I’ve been wanting to share for a long time, and suddenly a few weeks ago, it felt like the right time to finally write this all down. So grab your coffee, green juice or heck, a glass of prosecco (I don’t know when you’re reading this!) and settle in because I’m sharing my journey with health. Heads up, it hasn’t been a smooth one.
At the end of last year, I was feeling, well, kinda crappy. I was tired constantly, even after a long night’s sleep. I’d get random headaches, was irritable, and it seemed like every other thing I ate upset my stomach. During the day, I felt foggy and sluggish, and couldn’t stay focused. I’d always considered myself a pretty healthy person—I workout, I eat healthy and I get a decent amount of sleep—so, why was I feeling like this?! Could it be my twenties coming to an end? Surely not, right?
Then in December, something clicked. I’d been doing a lot of reading and researching and fell upon some pretty incredible data. Life-changing, really. So, I started making changes—some small and some major, and awesome things have happened. But, before I delve into the amazing changes I’ve been experiencing you need to know what I’ve dealt with along the way. My journey with health and wellness has been a bit of a roller coaster. That first vertical drop, the one that leaves you feeling like your stomach is in your chest, happened in college. So, let’s turn back the clock and take a look at what my life looked like then.
The first two years of college were pretty normal. Other than gaining the obligatory freshman fifteen, my health was pretty good. I played volleyball that year, regularly went to the gym and walked a lot—definitely and upside to college campuses! But sometime in my junior year, things changed. I felt crappy all the time, I was tired for no good reason and every thing I ate—healthy or not—sent my body into freakout mode. I’d get the most painful, debilitating stomach pains that would last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Back then, I blamed it on the boozy Tuesdays at the Aardvark, our local college bar, and the late night pizza or Taco Bell that followed, or my long sleepless nights at the library, where my dinner consisted of Skittles, granola bars and coffee. I assumed this was normal, that all college students felt like this. I mean, I wasn’t exactly doing my body any favors and surely this was the punishment—right? After dealing with it quietly for several months, I finally asked one of my best friends if she’d ever experienced something like that. She looked at me like I was crazy—“maybe you should see a doctor” was her response.
I suppose I already knew something wasn’t quite right, but having someone else voice my thoughts out loud, made it all too real.
So, I started making changes and that’s when the roller coaster ride really began. I started by going vegetarian for a while, cutting out dairy when I could, exercising more and switching out beer in lieu of vodka sodas—you know, real healthy choices! Being vegetarian was great—I felt lighter, had more energy and less stomach pain, but the better I felt, the easier it was to make exceptions to my new diet plan—a slice of pizza here, a beef taco there, queso, chips and Corona’s at our favorite taco joint. Before I knew it, I was right back where I’d left off. Miserable and in pain. The rest of college followed this same pattern. I’d go on a super healthy diet and then fall back into my old habits just a few weeks later.
When I look back, I think the real reason I was never able to conquer my problem is that none of my “fixes” left me feeling 100% better. Even during my vegetarian days, I’d still get terrible stomach pains. The only difference was that it happened a little less frequently.
Now, let’s fast forward to the post-college, new job, I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-with-my-life phase. This was surprisingly one of the healthiest times of my life and here’s why. I was living in my parents back house, eating whatever healthy meal my mom prepared, I wasn’t drinking nearly as much, and I didn’t love my job, so I’d started a food blog on the side and most of the time I featured healthy recipes. Around this time, I also started taking a probiotic, Align, which helped tremendously. It seemed as if I’d finally found the magic combination!
Two Years Ago
Let’s fast-forward again. For a long time my stomach pains seemed to be pretty much gone and it was amazing. I felt like I was living again. Everything was new and exciting! I moved to Chicago, started a business, got engaged, then married and traveled to some really amazing places in between, but about a year and a half ago, things started to go downhill again. I found myself in one of the most stressful stretches of my career as a designer. For the first time, I had tried to hire outside help. I was beyond my scope with developing and figured this was the next step in growing my business, but with every new developer I hired, something went wrong. One wouldn’t respond for weeks at a time, making it impossible for me to do anything and the client, understandably, was furious. The next one ended up getting so sick that she could no longer work. To top it off, my health was declining. I felt horrible, everything I ate made me sick, I couldn’t sleep, I was on edge all the time, nothing sounded fun and my stress levels were at an all-time high.
Finally, Rob suggested I go see a specialist—that was a wake up call. The way I was currently living my life wasn’t working, and something had to change. I was embarrassed I’d let it get this far and that I hadn’t been able to fix it on my own, but he was right. It was time for some intervention.
My doctor’s first question was “is your job stressful?” Uhh, yes, and that was putting it lightly. They ran a bunch of different tests to make sure I wasn’t allergic to any specific foods and also took some scans to make sure there wasn’t something bigger at play. Everything came back 100% normal. Part of me was relieved, but part of me was frustrated. If nothing was “wrong” with me, what was causing me to feel so terrible?!
When I finally got to talk with my doctor, he basically said stress was wrecking havoc on my body and that I needed to find a way to better manage it. He also told me that I likely had a lot of food sensitivities, even though I wasn’t actually allergic to anything, so he suggested I cut out artificial sweeteners, greasy fried foods, and cut back on dairy and caffeine.
What that experience really triggered in me was the serious need for some major lifestyle changes.
What happened next was a long process—one that’s still happening. One of the first major changes I made was closing my design business—the major stressor in my life at the time. It’s been amazing to see what that decision has led to, and I’m sure that what I’m doing now would not have been possible without that decision. Even with making that big decision, I still found myself yo-yoing between extremely healthy and losing my footing.
But then in late December, everything started to click, and for once in my life I feel like I actually have control over my health. The biggest difference? Having the knowledge to make informed decisions. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and it’s really opened my eyes to how my body works. So, in January, I really started making some big changes to my lifestyle. The biggest change has been my diet (more on this in the near future), and also my exercise routine, beauty regimen, attitude, and my overall outlook and relationship with my body. I’m finally, after all these years, listening to my body instead of ignoring its flashing red lights.
Guys. Amazing, amazing things have happened since then.
I haven’t had any of those shooting stomach pains and after a lifetime of dealing with oily skin and breakouts, my skin is finally clearing up without the help of prescription meds. I feel awake, well-rested, excited, alert and energetic. Those foggy moments I used to have on a daily basis are gone and I sleep like a rock at night. I feel the more confident, powerful and joyful than I have in my whole life. It’s hard to explain how amazing it feels, because really you can’t truly understand it until it happens to you (and maybe it already has—good for you!). The feeling is addicting, which is good, because I know how hard it can be to make healthy choices after a long work day or push yourself to go to the gym when you really just want to drink wine and watch HGTV. But, feeling this wonderful is really all the motivation I need.
There’s an assumption in our modern world that if you’re a certain weight or look a certain way that you’re healthy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Being healthy goes so much further beyond weight and body type and that was another big reason why I wanted to share my health journey with you guys. I’ve had so many people tell me that I “seem so healthy”, and while it’s nice to hear, it wasn’t really what was happening behind the scenes. Now that you know the full story, you can understand where my passion and enthusiasm about health and wellness comes from. Before this gets any longer (seriously, you’re amazing if you’re still reading this!), if you’ve struggled with your health or you feel like you’re not living your best, you’re not alone. It can feel so isolating, and it’s a scary thing to share (writing this post wasn’t easy), but I hope that through my story I’m able to inspire some of you to make changes of your own so that you can feel your absolute best too!
I’m sure the roller coaster ride isn’t totally over, but I’m hoping that I’m done with those big vertical drops and loops once and for all.
Have you dealt with un-diagnosed or “mystery” health issues before? What tips do you have for feeling your absolute best?
P.S. You guys showed a huge interest in health and wellness in my reader survey at the end of last year, which was really really exciting and I’ve already started sharing more of these types of posts! It’s something I’ve always been passionate about, and I look forward to sharing more of my journey with you guys. So, if you have any specific questions or topics you’d like covered feel free to leave them in the comments below, and if you want to talk more privately about it, feel free to shoot me an email because I know talking about health on the internet is a little public, ha!
P.P.S. This outfit is one of my favorites EVER. It’s so simple, but it’s so me—perfect for this story! Details are below!