Life Update: It’s So Worth It

Hey all!

It’s been awhile so that means it’s time for a life update.

As you know, towards the end of June I set out to really heal my body and metabolism by eating more food without restriction.  If you haven’t read that post yet, you can find it here.  Well, it’s been just a little over 2 months and I’m happy to report things are going great!  My body has adjusted to eating more food (aka  a more normal amount for my body and activity level).  I find myself feeling hungry more often which is awesome because for a long time I very rarely felt truly hungry for food and I felt like it took forever for my body to digest a meal.  I am also very happy to report that my digestive issues (severe stomach pain, bloat, etc) that I dealt with for a very long time seemed to have gone away almost completely.  I used to have to be very careful with what I ate and how often I ate, etc. or I would be in severe pain.  Not these days though!  Even when I decide to have a treat (like a bowl of coconut ice cream) I feel fine the next day.  This just blows my mind.  I felt like I was never going to get over my issues but eating the right amount of food has helped so much.  I also believe not stressing about food anymore has helped a ton.  I know that by eating more food it gave my body the extra energy it needed to heal itself.  And that doesn’t just include my digestive system.

Another goal of increasing my food intake was to get my hormones in check and getting my period on a regular schedule again.  I’ve mentioned before but just to refresh, I got my period for the first time in 4 years last July (2013).  It hasn’t been regular since then.  It would come every 2-4 months.  Since eating more I’ve had it twice with only 1 month in between which is my normal.  I’m hoping this continues!

I know this may seem strange to some to speak openly about such personal things but if it helps just one person that it is worth it to me to share.  If you have a history of calorie restriction, over-exercising, stressful food rules, etc.  I hope you will consider taking the step towards healing your body and increasing your food intake.  It is absolutely worth it.

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One more thing I’ve done is to not stress about exercise so much.  I love working out but I knew that I needed to give my body time to rest and heal itself.  I needed the extra calories my body was getting to be used to heal my insides not get burned away during exercise.  I didn’t stop working out completely but I decreased it a lot.  I did GPP workouts a couple of times a week but I didn’t do any cardio.  If there was running or a lot of jump roping in the workouts I skipped those parts and stuck with the weight training parts.  I went on walks a couple of times a week and did a bit of yoga as well.  I also took naps during the day if I felt like I needed too.  (which is recommended here).  I felt very tired the first couple of weeks but that has passed and Inow have a steady amount of energy through out the day.  Probably next week I will start doing a little bit more workout wise but only if I feel like it.  And I will workout however I feel like that day.  Whether I feel like lifting, running, yoga, dancing, etc  that is what I will do.  I know if I respect how I’m feeling and I will feel much better after my workouts.

Now there were some bad days-some hard days throughout the past couple of months.  It definitely wasn’t smooth sailing.  Especially in the first few weeks.  I experienced a lot of pain, bloating, edema (water retention) all over my body, and weight gain (carried mainly in my stomach).  It was not fun.  I felt huge.  I felt unattractive and uncomfortable.  A lot of my pants weren’t buttoning anymore.  I felt like it was never going to stop but it did stop.    My body adjusted to my new normal food intake, the bloating went away, the little bit of weight I gained (about 8-10 pounds overall)-that I needed to gain-has now evenly spread out over my body, not just in my stomach anymore.   And my body seems to have reached it’s optimal weight set point because I’m no longer gaining but maintaining.  And I bought some new pants that fit my new body.  These days my head is in a much better place.  I am grateful for my body and I love my new body because it is a healthy and beautiful one.  Every body is beautiful.  To be honest, I’m surprised at how quickly things seems to have  gotten better.  I thought it would take so much longer to reach this place.  And for some it will.  Every body is different.  I am grateful to be feeling so much better and happier these days.  I’m also so grateful to my husband for encouraging me everyday to stick with it and loving the heck out of me grumpiness and all.

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Well that’s all for now.  Next post will be about some fun things I’ve been able to do since I’ve let go of my food rules!

Post any thoughts or questions you might have in the comments below! 

Eat the Food to Heal Metabolic Damage

Warning:  This is a longer post  but it’s an important one.  It was important for me to write it down anyway.  I hope you get something out of it.

When I first got into health and fitness (about 5-6 years ago)  my goal was to tone up a bit.  Maybe drop just a few pounds.

Well, that’s what I did.  And then I did some more. I’ve always been on the smaller side so I really had no business losing as much weight as I did.  I also became really strict about “eating clean”, restricting my calories, doing cardio 5-6 days a week plus strength training several days a week, plus eating 5-6 times a day, and making sure I was eating a carb, a protein, and a fat but not too many carbs or fat.  blah blah blah.  My story is not unique in this sense.  I know of many people through blog reading that have gotten caught up in this trap.

For awhile I was ok with being in this trap.  I was fine because I was toned and I had a flat stomach with visible abs.  But guess what I didn’t have.  A period.  Spontaneity.  A dinner out with my husband that didn’t include me being a stressed out grump because I didn’t know what exactly was in my food.  A life.  I hardly ever wanted to go anywhere or be away from the house too long because I didn’t want to mess up my eating schedule.  How responsible of me.

I looked good on the outside but the inside (which is what really matters) was struggling.  My body was shutting down just after a few months of this craziness when my usually very regular period stopped.  It shut down even more when I began having lots of digestive issues about 3 years into it.  I suffered from a lot of pain, bloating, and constipation (sorry tmi, I know).  I tried to fix things.  I cut out grains for awhile and then just gluten for an even longer time.  I cut out peanut butter for a time (some of the saddest days;), I cut out beans.  I tried a lot of things.  Eventually I became a vegan.  That helped a lot!  At least for a time.  Eventually I reintroduced eggs and fish back into my diet.   And although in the long run being a vegan hasn’t fixed my issues I have no intention of going back to eating meat.   But anyway, the point is I became even more restrictive than I already was which only put more stress on my body.  I had no idea what was happening to me.   Why was this happening to me?  The truth I soon found out was I did this to myself.

The first part of my healing started around the beginning of last year.  I still didn’t have a period (that’s 4 years, no period.  Kind of awesome, but in the long run, not awesome)  I knew I needed to get it back if I wanted my body to start acting normal again.  I had learned about how not having a period can really affect your hormones which can affect pretty much every part of your body including digestion.  So I started trying to eat a little more (although still not consistently enough), stress less, eased up on cardio, etc.  In March I stopped calorie counting which reduced my stress because calories weren’t consuming my thoughts anymore.   Eventually in July after about 6-7 months of focusing on this I got my period!!  There is still more work to do though.  I have had it a few more times since then but it’s not yet regular or consistent.  Fast forward to the beginning of this year.  My priorities shifted even more to really healing my digestion.  I went to a holistic doctor who put me on an elimination diet (no gluten, soy, peanuts, citrus, vinegar, yeast, nightshades, etc.) for a few weeks.  I’ve recently been able to reintroduce all the foods and guess what, as far as I can tell no food intolerances!  Not even gluten.  Actually I feel really well eating gluten:) (yay for that because sometimes you just need some fresh baked bread with avocado!!)  I’ve also had to take a high dose of probiotics and some digestive enzymes.  I’m very happy I don’t have any food intolerances but if I don’t have any intolerances, what’s wrong with me?

As I’ve learned recently, calorie restriction can cause a number of digestive problems among other things.  See this post for more info.  Or listen to this awesome and super helpful and insightful podcast.   Basically, my body wasn’t getting the energy it needed to perform all of its functions.  So it conserved energy by shutting down my reproductive system and slowing down the digestion of food also know as Gastroparesis.

“Gastroparesis is a survival mechanism whereby the stomach doubles its emptying time to the small intestine, meaning the food is churned in the stomach for longer to try to allow for the small intestine to maximize the too-little energy coming in to the body.”  This is totally me.  Whenever I did try eating more I was always so full and even when I ate a small amount I felt like my body took forever to digest it.  This made it hard to eat enough because my body was still digesting what it ate 5 hours ago!  Not fun!

Also, when you’re not eating enough, the good bacteria in your gut dies which only makes things worse.  Thus the reason I have to take probiotics to repopulate my intestines with helpful bacteria.  This leads us to the good news.  If you eat a low calorie diet or have eaten a low calorie diet for even just a few months (it doesn’t even have to be extremely low.  for the past 5 years I ate anywhere from 1100-1800 calories, more recently I would say around 1500-1600 which is NOT ENOUGH!!) and are suffering from any of these symptoms, you can fix it!  Please take my advice and change things!  After reading this post and this post I have decided to increase my calories in a major way so I can retrain my body to thrive on more calories which actually is more like the right amount of calories.  After calculating my calorie needs with an online calculator I should be eating closer to at least 2200 cal a day.  Although I’m not into calorie counting anymore I will be for the next little bit just to make sure I’m getting enough.

It’s day 5 of me eating more and I’m feeling better already.  For real.  My goal for this week is to eat 1900-2100 cal and add about 100 cal every week until I’m eating 2500-3000 calories a day. (Which is the amount recommend to fully restore metabolism which will include restoring my period and digestive function)  Doing it slowly will reduce any fullness, bloating, discomfort as well as reduce the amount of fat I gain.  The first 2 1/2 days I was very uncomfortable (bloated and full) but I ate anyway.  Our bodies are smart and things have normalized.  I’m actually feeling hungrier during the day and I have lots of energy.  That’s a good sign.  This means it’s working.  It can be scary to eat a lot more-no one wants to gain a bunch of weight/fat but even if I do, it’s ok because I know my body/metabolism will eventually normalize and any weight/fat I gain will drop off and things will be normal again.  Until then  I’m going to enjoy a few (or several) extra servings of guacamole and nut butter.

I know this is long but I hope it helps somebody.  Our bodies are a gift.  Our bodies are all we really own.  Lets treat them right.  We need so much more food than the media tells us.  Don’t listen to them.  Listen to your body.  Listen to your mind.  Don’t let food and exercise and having the perfect eating schedule run your life.  Run your own life.

Food is good.  Lots of food is even better.  Food is not the enemy.  Food is just food.  Rules and restriction are the enemy.

It takes time to heal but it is worth it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, post them below!