At the beginning of the summer, I made five serious goals. My number one priority was simple: treat food as medicine. Finally, I’m going to explain what this means to me, why I do it, and how it continues to change my body and how I nourish it. Please know that I am neither a doctor nor nutritionist. I am aware of this. I just know that as I have mentioned it, people have been curious. So I am sharing parts of my story.*
Why is this important to me? In 2008, I had a seizure due to a medication a doctor put me on. It was fluke, one time occurrence. Little did I (or anyone else) know but this fluke seizure actually messed up my body. It caused my chronic auto-immune disease that I live with now.*
Over the next year, my body began to slowly deteriorate. Doctors would diagnosis me and I would return home from college worse. Clearly this wasn’t sudden IBS or then mono. By spring, I could barely walk and more serious tests were done. When I cam home for the summer I could barely move; laying down hurt, as if my whole body was one pulse of pain. I was fortunate that my whole family–Mom, Dad, Stepmom–devoted themselves to my diagnosis and treatment.
Because I could barely move throughout that summer (and I still did not have a diagnosis), I gained a lot of weight. Before the previous year of health issues, my weight mattered a great deal to me. I had an emotional attachment to food. And then I lost a bunch of weight–and not in the healthiest of ways. I didn’t have an eating disorder but I definitely had a disordered view of food happening to get my body down to a size zero. But in the summer of 2009, praying for a diagnosis, in so much pain, my weight or vanity didn’t matter to me at all. I just wanted to be out of pain. That’s it.
Finally, a month before my senior year of school, I was diagnosed and two weeks after that we started to see improvement with medications. We also found a doctor who practiced as an MD and very much in the western style but also used some holistic methods. He brought up the “Candida Diet” which is not a diet. It’s a way of life. Basically we all have yeast in our bodies (and I know when I say yeast, what you automatically think…that can be a symptom but the yeast is everywhere) and the idea is that yeast causes any health issue to be worse and that we are healthier without. So the idea is to kill the yeast (which makes me think of that part in Beauty and the Beast where they sing: Kill the Beast!). How do you kill yeast? By cutting out all sugar, including natural sugars in fruit (once the yeast is dead, you can add in natural sugars). This is the book I followed if you are interested. But I was doing all this under doctor supervision.
A few weeks ago in present time, my dad mentioned to me this memory he had and got a little emotional: “I’ll never forget the call I got a few weeks into the semester where you said, ‘Dad, I’m walking to class!'” I was taking my medications and following the Candida free way.
I lost weight but again it was just a perk. I naturally leveled off and I consider that to my healthy size (and guess what? It’s not a zero). Meanwhile the food I was eating wast improving how I felt (any day on below a four on the pain scale was amazing and a month or two in I was having days at a two level). Plus this way of eating took emotion and vanity out of it: I desperately wanted to feel as healthy as possible for me, as low of a pain level as possible.
Fast forward to this February, I was the heaviest I’ve ever been for a number of reasons. I don’t mind sharing but this is long already. I was also in denial over how much pain I was in. Imagine carrying dumbbells that weighed 70 pounds plus your healthy body while grocery shopping, going to work, cleaning, even just sitting…basically living.
Finally, I spoke to my parents and admitted things I didn’t even realize until I said the words. I feared that I would never have a normal life, let alone a social life, that I always downplayed my pain to them, that I was the worst I’d ever been–practically back to that place before my diagnosis. I felt defeated. My mom said she would travel to help me. My dad encouraged me with this, that still sticks with me, after I said that there will never be a day for me without pain: “Aren’t your best days better than your worst days? Compare you to you.” It kicked me in the butt and I stopped feeling defeated.
Enter my plan to treat food as medicine. It’s not paleo (though there are a lot of similarities); it’s gluten free for two reasons–gluten affects my IBS and once gluten is in your body it doesn’t necessarily add nutrients (medicine to your body…just hold on and I’ll get there). But it’s so much more than that. It’s what works for my body and just my explanation for the people who have asked.