I'm on a diet for the rest of my life.
That's how my lifestyle as a health coach feels, sometimes. And I couldn't be happier about it.
I was reminded about this when I went on vacation. Up until that time, things were going well. I was losing weight, feeling strong and my sleep was awesome. And then, I went away for about 10 days. I crashed on comfy couches, spare beds and even an idyllic airbnb in Laurel Canyon! I grabbed food that was fast, convenient and reasonably healthy.
And then the decline began.
In LA, I became bloated and had with stomach pains so fierce it felt like someone was stabbing me with knives. I was restless and tossed and turned and then wake up groggy and reach for fast forms of energy like sugar and caffeine. I was in a strange place without a proper kitchen, so I couldn't cook for myself like I did at home.
My skin started to break out. It's such a familiar feeling, that sinking in my stomach. I've known it a few times before. I have acne war stories that feel as real as yesterday.
When I arrived home, my troubles ramped up. My sleep, already affected by the poor nutrition, was even more erratic now from jet lag. The stomach pain thing happened two more times. I came home to a mountain of work since it's my last semester as a graduate student. The next five days went something like this:
toss and turn wake up try to eat something make coffee drink coffee whoops forgot to drink water first ok my stomach hurts ugh I need to get this work done I can't even focus I need a nap well but my stomach is bothering me so much I can't even sleep maybe I should have some greens ok that didn't work because I still feel like crap maybe a nap will help I will use my hot water bottle (ZZZZZZZZZ) ok wow that helped a ton I can get some work done oh it's time to eat now great I have no interest it will only make things worse oh it's time to go to bed great tossing and turning again OMG those stomach pains are back?? OMG do I have a UTI or kidney infection I've never had pain this bad in my whole life
So, I'm on a diet for the rest of my life. I'm lucky I know how to feel 100%. I kind of can't believe the decline happened so fast, but now I have such incredible compassion for people who live like that all day every day. That was me for most of my life. I am glad I figured out how to feel better at my age instead of suffering another five or 10 or 20 years.
What's the diet I'm committed to? It's one of simple tools for more balance and self-healing.
I cut out everything I knew was contributing to my gut pain and mental state: wheat, dairy and sugar. They were destroying the delicate balance of my microbiome. I made it a point to cook for myself even though I was tired and fraught with anxiety. Homecooking is a way we can control what we put in our bodies--and I knew it was the solution after so many days of ingesting takeout.
(I'm not a doctor. I'm a health coach and gut health isn't my niche or specialty. I DO know enough about microbiomes to know they are PROFOUNDLY IMPORTANT and responsible for our mental, emotional and physical health. They digest our food which affects our energy and mental health. Read more here and here.)
I love catharsis, but I am a really sensitive person. My trip included a lot of emotional highs and lows and after a while it took a toll on me. I used a hot water bottle and heating pad to settle the nerves in my stomach. I also reached out to good listeners and did a lot of writing. I knew love and acceptance for my choices would help me get back on track and feel better fast.
This bout really through me for a loop and I learned even more about my needs and my own limitations. I practiced what I knew had worked in the past or I tried something else. The recipe for success for me is usually more cooked veggies, less sugar and wheat, more kind and loving connections and more sleep--even if it's 2 o'clock in the afternoon. My life allows for that now, so I take full advantage of it.
The pace of the travel was tough. My belly issues were a barometer for the tremendous shift in energy I experienced and how I chose to adjust accordingly (or not). Resting allows our bodies to heal themselves naturally, without adding something in that only complicates things. I was getting to the point where I was taking things to offset symptoms from taking things. Sleep is cheap, easy and more effective than all those things combined!
I'm grateful my backslide only lasted a week or so. Things have righted themselves again and I feel much better. While I'm not a gut health specialist, I do know what "lifestyle diet" works for me and my life. If you need some help, I'd be happy to support you.