Lesson Learned: Listen to your Gut

I have a confession:  I have not been taking care of myself lately and now I am paying the ultimate price. As I sit here and write this, I am in a lot of discomfort and some pain that could probably have been avoided.  Here’s why:

Several months ago, I visited my naturopathic doctor who gave me a nutrition plan to help heal my ulcerative colitis.  The plan is very Paleo-like and was developed after I had food sensitivity and blood work done.  Basically, according to her instructions, I am supposed to eliminate all eggs, dairy, wheat, gluten, peanuts, corn, white potatoes, legumes, and sugar from my diet.  This, along with some supplements she’s prescribed, are supposed to help repair the damage done to my intestinal wall, decrease the amount of bad bacteria in my gut while increasing the amount of good bacteria, and get rid of the inflammation that causes the terrible symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

I followed the plan for a few weeks (with a few minor cheats and treats here and there).  But over the course of the last month, I’ve pretty much gone completely off my nutrition plan.  I’ve been eating whatever I want and if you know me, that’s nothing healthy.  There’s been ice cream (and lots of it), bread (and lots of it), fast food, chips, crackers, diet pop…. the list goes on.  And because, up until this point, it didn’t seem to be having too much negative effect on me, I kept it up.

Over the last couple of days in particular, I have eaten very poorly.  We got some upsetting news the other day and I’ve been using that as my excuse to eat junk.  And now I am paying for it…

Last night when I went to bed, I felt the old familiar pains of indigestion (a tight, painful squeezing feeling in my upper abdomen) and was also a tad bit nauseous.  I prayed that these pains would not send me into a full-out stomach attack like they’ve done in the past, where I am crying on the floor in cold sweats and excruciating pain caused by severe indigestion.  Fortunately, I was able to fall asleep and slept pretty well throughout the night.

This morning when I woke up though, I could still feel tiny hints of the indigestion although it wasn’t nearly as bad as last night.  I went about getting my day started.  Then all of a sudden, I got terrible stomach pains and a bit of nausea and had to hurry to the bathroom.  Without going into too many gruesome details, let’s just say it was not a fun experience.  It was very painful and when finished, the toilet bowl was full of blood (sorry).  This has not happened in a quite some time and I was devastated. Now the bottom end of my digestive tract is very sore and irritated, not a pleasant feeling.

As much as I hate to admit this, I had this coming.  I was foolish and had myself convinced that since I wasn’t really experiencing any of my typical UC symptoms, I could eat whatever I wanted.  Having a “treat” here and there led to a full-out free-for-all.  And now, my UC symptoms seems to be back (at least for now) in full vegeance and I am paying the price.

I am writing this for a couple of reasons.  First, I want to be able to look back on it to give myself that much-needed reminder about why it is so important for me to stick to a healthy eating plan.  I know I will get too comfortable again, but hopefully by coming back to this, I can more clearly remember the awful physical pain that it puts my body through and prevent myself from going too far off track.  It is so important for me to track my foods (something I have stopped doing recently) and to pay better attention to the physical and mental reactions to the foods I eat.  This isn’t just about trying to lose weight to look good anymore, this is my health, and I don’t know why I keep playing with fire….

Secondly, I want to spread the message to others that what we put in our bodies really does affect us in so many ways!  Sometimes, we may not see or feel the physical results of feeding our body unhealthy foods, but they are there!  Don’t be like me and wait until your body is unhealthy and you are in pain to make the change.  We need to start getting people everywhere to nourish their bodies.  Too many of us (myself very much included) eat for pleasure or to comfort ourselves.  We only choose our foods based on how they taste and not on how they are going to affect our body and our overall health.

As painful as it was, I think this is the wakeup call I needed this morning.  Unfortunately, I need to remember this feeling so that I can have a constant reminder of how important it is to follow the food plan that is going to help heal my body.  I need to be patient enough and to trust that when I make these changes, I will feel a positive effect (more energy, clearer skin, healthy bowel movements, slimmer waistline, etc.) It’s hard to be patient when you’re making these changes, but if we don’t do it, we end up back where we started, which in my case, is painful and unhealthy.

Advertisements

Consistency is Key: Perfection is Impossible

I am feeling very upset with myself tonight.  Frustrated and angry would more accurately describe it.  I just got back from another failed run.  I picked running back up earlier this summer and while some days of my new training program have been awesome, some have been really, really hard.  Today happened to be one of the hard ones. I was supposed to do a combined total of 34 minutes of running and about 18 minutes of walking (including warm-up and cool-down) but I didn’t even make it through half of the run before my body just couldn’t do it.

And while I know that this is just the way training goes (some days are good, some days are not), I’m also feeling frustrated because I know this is mostly my fault.  It’s no surprise that my body could not perform optimally tonight (as badly as I wanted it to), when I haven’t been taking care of it nutritionally.

Several months ago, I was put on a fairly restrictive nutrition plan by my naturopath.  The initial reasons for doing so were to heal my ulcerative colitis, overcome the extreme fatigue I’d been having, and to lose weight in a healthy way.  After doing food sensitivity and blood testing, my naturopath eliminated the following from my diet: wheat/gluten, dairy, sugar, corn, peanuts, chickpeas, and cane sugar.  It was discovered that I have a high amount of yeast in my gut (causing too much bad bacteria which causes my inflammation and ulcers) so she also put me on a yeast therapy treatment and gave me strict instructions to drastically cut back on sugar (which feeds the growth of yeast).  I was also put on a hemoglobin supplement (my low hemoglobin would be one cause of my extreme fatigue and probiotics  which would help boost healthy bacteria in the gut.

For a good while, I stuck pretty faithfully to this plan (with only a few minor cheats here and there) and took my supplements and treatments regularly. I saw almost immediate results – my boating and gas went down drastically, energy levels went up slightly, even my skin got clearer.

 

But, over the last few weeks I have lost my way.  It started when we went on vacation and I told myself I could have more “treats”,  but since coming home over a week ago, I just can not seem to get back on my nutrition plan.  In fact, I shamefully admit I have gone completely off of it.  I’ve been eating everything that hurts my body (white bread, bagels, crackers, peanut butter, tons of sugar, ice cream, cheese, fast food….) The hard thing is, I don’t know why I do this because nearly every time I do, I become consumed with guilt.  I tell myself I shouldn’t have it but I do anyway, and then I feel badly.  I tell myself I will eat healthier at the next meal, and then I don’t.  I buy healthy foods when I go grocery shopping, but then they go back on my counter while I eat junk instead.  And since my UC symptoms haven’t been drastic lately, it’s been easier for me to say “f*&$ it” and consumer whatever junk I want.

So it shouldn’t have came as a surprise that when I set out for my run tonight, I was battling some indigestion and my stomach was bloated.  And when I started the running intervals, I felt like I was carrying a load of bricks around my middle.  I felt heavy and sluggish.  On top of that, since the weather was overcast, I had way underestimated the humidity and was sweating within minutes. Guys, I loathe being hot.  Yes, I know you’re supposed to sweat when working out, but humidity just kills me!

Needless to say, about halfway through my run, I gave up and walked the rest of the way.  I instantly felt hot tears of frustration welling in my eyes.  The negative self-talk started up as I blamed myself for eating poorly and for not being able to fulfill the run I had hoped to do.

Maybe I am just not cut out for running, I thought. I’ve been dreading all my runs lately anyway.  Maybe I am better off just being fat and out of shape. This is your fault, you should have known better…. Maybe I need to get a modified program, this one is too hard. All you did was eat carbs and sugar all day and you thought you could get away with it!  You know better!  What were you thinking?!  You should have known this would catch up to you eventually!

But fortunately, my only saving grace tonight was that I’ve been working really hard on overcoming negative thoughts with positive ones.  Sure, that harsh, judgemental, “you’re-not-good-enough-and-never-will-be” voice immediately piped up in my head, but then moments later so did the inner voice I like to think of as “my friend”.

Today is just not your day but not every day will be perfect. Forgive yourself. Yes you haven’t been making the best food choices but you can change that.  It’s okay. You win some and you lose some, next time will be better.  You are going to keep trying.  Consistency will get you where you want to be.  You can do it, don’t give up on yourself.  Make one or two small changes every day and you will get there. Don’t give up.

And thankfully this positive, encouraging inner voice took over (and just so you know, I have to make a real effort for the positive voice to over-power the negative one, it’s not easy) because now I have had some time to reflect and to see that perfection is impossible but consistency is key and it’s never too late to get back on track.

What I have learned is that I need to remind myself why I started this nutrition plan in the first place.  It wasn’t primarily to lose weight as I’ve been thinking of it lately (and somehow I had foolishly convinced myself that I can “cheat” with my food as long as I am working out and won’t gain weight… even though I know that’s not the truth!)  The real reason I started this plan was to optimize my health.  Even though, I am not currently experiencing the severe symptoms of ulcerative colitis, I am definitely starting to notice some of the warning signs since I have been eating poorly again.  I’ve had far more gas and bloating lately, and am even starting to get bouts of indigestion again (something that I used to get so badly that I was taken to the hospital in the ambulance a few times because I thought I was having a gall bladder attack!)  And while my energy levels have been better lately, I know that is primarily because it’s summer (which means I’m off work and it’s sunny alot!) If I were working and eating this way, I’d be feeling sluggish, tired, or even depressed.  I know that if I clean up my diet, I will start to feel better.  My bloating will go down (one step closer to a flat stomach!) and the digestive pain and discomfort I have will go away.  My skin will clear, my energy levels will continue to increase, and it will get easier and easier to maintain the positive attitude that is so important to a journey of good health.

So although I may be feeling frustrated and angry with myself, I am grateful tonight that I know not to beat myself up (for too long anyway, haha!) and to take this as a learning experience.  It’s time to put my health (in particular my gut health) at the forefront again and to know that some days just aren’t my day, but that there’s always tomorrow and that I WLL NOT GIVE UP on my goals!

xo