I, like many others, have a unique journey towards health that started when I was young. For some of you, reading my story will be shocking. It is not something I have shared with a lot of people so might be the first time hearing it for most. I feel it is important to share now though because it may help someone else. Also, I feel it is important to know that no one is perfect and we all have our own struggles. I understand struggles, but I also know it is possible to overcome them. Below is my story regarding my personal struggles, how they affected my health, how I overcame the struggles and how they led me to optimal health and a passion for helping others.
I was never an obese child, but I was considered “chubby.” During my adolescent years, I went through the awkward stage most of us go through where I started noticing and becoming aware of my body. This is when my struggle with disordered eating made it’s big debut. I clearly remember the day it started. I was in sixth grade and waiting in the lunch line. A boy loudly said to me in front of the rest of my class, “Kristi, you look very pretty today….pretty fat!” I was horrified and wanted to start crying, but was strong and made it through the day without tears, but that is the day I started skipping lunch.
That one comment stuck with me throughout my middle and high school years. I would severely restrict my foods followed by binges. I even tried vomiting after the binges, but thankfully I was never good at making myself vomit. If I was though, I am confident I would have developed bulimia. Instead, I would restrict all day until I was at home and my mom forced me to eat. I was lucky, I had a mother who cared about me and noticed my bizarre eating habits. She did her best to help me, but I could never tell her what was really going on. It was my secret that I didn’t share with anyone. In my head, all I wanted was to be skinny and I was willing to do whatever it took, even if it meant starving myself.
Next, came my college years, which consisted of more disordered eating. I would restrict all day and eat at night. To help me through my restricting, I drank coffee, diet coke and smoked cigarettes (gross, I know!). This is actually a very common diet for college girls. If we restricted during the day, then we could make up for the calories we consumed by binge drinking on the weekends. Ironically, this diet caused me to gain weight my Freshman year. This caused me to restrict even more the next few years of college. I can remember being proud of myself for restricting all day and then only eating half of a Healthy Choice (that is not such a healthy choice) at night. I would also spend an hour on the treadmill every night. Needless to say, I lost weight, but I was not healthy nor could this be sustained. I could gain weight so easily because my body was so malnourished. Any nourishment I gave it, it would just hold onto it because my body wasn’t sure when its next meal might be. But, I wasn’t fat and that made me happy.
After college, I still struggled with body image, but I wasn’t restricting my food as much. I just made sure I ate “healthy.” That meant whole wheat, no red meat, Healthy Choice meals for lunch etc. Also, I worked out by doing chronic cardio (at least 45 minutes to an hour several times a week). My weight went up and down the scale. I would weigh daily and sometimes several times a day. I still had some episodes that would creep back into my life of restricting and binging, but they were less frequent. However, when they did creep in I would feel terrible about myself. I was a Health Coach and aerobics instructor at the time. How could I be telling other people how to get healthy, but I was not there yet myself?
I continued my “healthy” diet and chronic cardio program for a few years after college. Then I got married, moved, moved again, was robbed at gunpoint, moved again and bought a house. All of this occurred during about a year and a half time frame. Obviously, I was under a lot of stress and my body went crazy. It was in constant fight of flight mode for months. Our bodies our wonderful machines because they have this built in fight or flight mechanism that protects us from danger by activating our internal alarm system in the hypothalamus, that prompts the adrenal glands to release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that will increase the heart rate, elevate blood pressure and boost energy. It does all this to protect us from danger, but it is not to suppose to be activated when we are not in danger. This is when dis-ease devlops in the body. My body thought there was a huge lion it needed to protect me from at all times. I was in a constant state of fight or flight mode for about a year.
My di-sease manifested in my digestive system. There were days when I would go to the bathroom six times or more within an hour of waking up. I could not eat anything without my “stomach being upset.” Also, I felt like I was in a brain fog all the time and had trouble concentrating. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me though. I thought I just had a “sensitive stomach.” Things continued like this for several months and finally I went to see a doctor of osteopathic medicine. This is when I was diagnosed with gluten, wheat, dairy, egg white, casein, and brown rice allergies. I was devastated because I thought there was nothing left to eat or drink. My doctor basically gave me the diagnosis and told me to eliminate everything, but there was nothing else he could do for me. Well, just eliminating one of these allergies is a huge undertaking, but all six was overwhelming. I decided I needed some professional help to learn how to eat again for my own body. I worked with a Certified Clinical Nutrionist (CCN) for a few months and learned how to eat right for my body. It was nice to have someone who understood what I was feeling and who I could text while grocery shopping or e-mail a question about a food I wasn’t sure I could eat etc.
Five years later, I feel great! I don’t restrict my caloric intake or have food binges. I am happy with my body, at least most days. There will always be days when I don’t feel the best, but I can recognize with those bad thoughts are creeping back into my life. Recognizing those thoughts allows me to manage them effectively and not fall into old habits. I use things like affirmations, meditation, yoga, and long talks with friends to help me make it through those times. I see my body differently now and am thankful for all that it does for me. I do everything I can to take care of it so I can prevent illness in the future. I still exercise, but no longer punish my body with chronic cardio. I exercise in a way that supports and energizes my body with things like yoga, biking, hiking or long walks on the beach. I eat a diet that supports my digestive system, which is basically meat, lots of vegetables and some fruit with no dairy, wheat or grains, gluten. My diet is similar to a Paleo lifestyle, but I do not like to identify with any diet. I like to say I eat the “Kristi Diet” because I eat foods that will nourish and support only my body, not anyone else’s. It has been a long journey to get me to state of health, but I am grateful for all my experiences because it led me to my optimal health and my passion to help others get healthier. Also, I can relate to others that may be struggling with similar experiences. Sometimes we just need someone to listen, hold our hands, guide us and tell us it will be okay. I can be that person for you.