I still remember it like it was yesterday.
I was 22, had a great paying job and was in the prime of my life—right?
I was 40 pounds overweight, had no energy and was tired constantly, no matter how many hours of sleep I got or how many naps I took. I was having headaches every day and woke up one morning realizing that I was no longer me.
What happened to me? Why was I no longer the happy, upbeat, fun loving person I had always been?
I realized that I just simply didn’t have any physical energy to be that person anymore, and that scared me.
It was the headaches that finally sent me to the doctor.
I was having them every day and they were making it increasingly difficult to concentrate at work, not to mention difficult to enjoy my life outside of it. So I went in and remember being completely confused when the doctor just handed me a prescription for ibuprofen.
I asked him if he had any idea why I was having daily headaches at the young age of 22 and he just shrugged it off and said it was probably stress. With that he walked out, appointment over.
I was completely dumbfounded by the fact that my own doctor had absolutely no interest in finding out why a 22-year-old was having headaches every day, which was of course not normal.
I was pissed that his solution was not to find the cause of the problem, but to simply put a Band-Aid over the symptoms of an obvious underlying problem—with pharmaceuticals that would eventually destroy my liver, no less.
I bitched about my doctor visit when I got back to work and one of the ladies I worked with recommended seeing a nutritionist she knew.
A nutritionist? It had absolutely never occurred to me to seek out a nutritionist for my health problems, but I figured since mainstream Western medicine had failed me, it was worth a shot.
One urine test, two weeks of food journalling and one extremely in-depth health questionnaire on symptoms later (I didn’t even realize until then that what I was feeling could be called symptoms, I just thought they were normal), the nutritionist informed me that I had a gluten sensitivity, severely depleted adrenals and the highest blood sugar levels she’d ever seen in someone my age.
What the hell was gluten? And oh my god, am I going to have to stick myself with needles for diabetes? I freaked out.
She told me not to worry, that diabetes and pre-diabetes were completely reversible through changes to my diet and, oh yeah, I was definitely not going to be able to live off bread, sandwiches, Starbucks and fast food anymore.
I panicked and asked her exactly what was left to eat?
After putting me on a detox to get my inflammation down and to clean out my body from sugar, she gave me tons of organic food recipes, a new lifestyle of “Paleo” eating, the basics of nutrition and explained how the body processed carbs and sugar.
I was completely fascinated. I had discovered I had a passion for something I didn’t even know I had.
I Googled and searched and read everything I could get my hands on about how the body responded and reacted so precisely to everything we put into it.
After the first week of my detox and the most intense withdrawals I have ever experienced (yes, you actually go through withdrawals from carbs and sugar), climbing the walls from wanting sugar so badly, I finally pushed through it all on about day 5.
I felt good, and no longer had any cravings, which I thanked the universe for.
By day 20 I was in full blown ketosis and I felt freaking amazing. I couldn’t believe how fantastic I felt! I had limitless energy, but not in a manic, caffeinated way. It was a very clear, focused and centered way. I realized that this was the way we humans were designed to feel and I wanted to tell everyone I knew about it, so they could feel amazing too.
My family was somewhat less than as ecstatic about it but did a nice job of patiently listening to me rant about health, nutrition, gluten, sugar and on and on, but they wanted no part of it.
At least not until I hit my third month and had dropped from a size 12/14 to a size five. That got their attention. My sister was the first one to jump onboard, then my dad and finally my mom—the most stubborn sugar addict you ever met—started making healthy changes, too.
I continued my self education on nutrition and everything related to it. I learned about GMOs in our food supply and how they are affecting everyone’s health and causing the nationwide gluten intolerance among other serious health issues. I went to conferences, classes, applied to Holistic Nutrition schools, and eventually came across Ayurveda.
Ayurveda was the complete picture for me.
Ayurveda is the ancient science of obtaining and maintaining optimum health by using food as medicine, but Ayurveda believes in whole health and that you can’t have completely balanced health unless you are taking care of the emotional and mental states of yourself, as well as the physical body.
I was fascinated by this perspective and it just made sense to me.
Down the rabbit hole I went, on a journey to find out if my emotional self was as healthy as my physical body—it wasn’t.
Over the next few years, after all of the physical changes I had made, research I had done, inner healing tools I tried, I made numerous inner discoveries about myself.
I realized that my old, addictive eating habits had simply been a manifestation of deep-seated shame, anger and deep wounds from my childhood on through adulthood.
I had body image issues galore like most of us do, as our society tends to cultivate them here in the U.S.
The whole process was and still is much like peeling an onion.
There are layers upon layers of deep wounds, hurts, false beliefs about ourselves, shame, anger and fear that all play a role in how we eat, how we take care of ourselves and what kind of relationships we have with others. I learned that confronting those deep, dark, frightening places in ourselves is the only real way to heal and stay healthy and whole.
It was scary, and intensely uncomfortable and painful.
I was angry at having to restrict what I ate when others didn’t seem to have to. I hated my body for betraying me and not staying slim like (at least, in my mind) everybody else was. I was angry at the government and food corporations for feeding us such unhealthy food and profiting from it.
I was hurt because I felt I couldn’t be loved with my flawed, imperfect body and damaged self. I was scared that I wouldn’t be taken seriously in the male dominated business world if I kept the weight off and carried around my hourglass figure. I felt like an outcast among my female co-workers who were almost all overweight themselves, berated me for being “too skinny,” and started excluding me from social gatherings.
I was angry and ashamed at the way I had allowed others to play such a huge role in my self-esteem and self-image. Finally, after going through those layers, I discovered that I was actually angry for not being true to myself and showing myself the kind of love I freely showed others.
The ironic part was that as soon as I stopped ignoring all the issues and dark places inside me that I kept locked away—as soon as I accepted that I really felt all those feelings—simply paying attention to those issues was healing in itself.
I needed to accept and acknowledge all of the “unacceptable” parts of myself and feelings as I had about them.
If I felt it, I had to let myself feel it, not stuff it down, ignore it or repress it. If I did (like most of us learn how to do in this society) it would just sit and fester, eventually playing out and manifesting in some way in my outer life.
Was it painful? Hell yes it was. At first.
The denial and resistance would inevitably come up, but I found that if I could force myself to sit with what came up and not distract myself with food, television, or socializing with friends constantly, I immediately felt better.
More often than not, it would result in a sob session, but the release was so intensely cathartic that I could finally let it go, whatever it was.
I would feel so much lighter and happier and each layer led to another and another and I could finally start to see who I really was. Not what society told me I should be, not what society programmed me to believe I should be, not what my parents told me I was or should be.
Not anyone else’s perceptions of me, just me.
After over a decade of working on my outer physical health as well as my inner self, I can tell you it is an ongoing process, but the sheer weight of what has been lifted and addressed and healed is unimaginable.
I know myself more. I feel centered and confident and at peace most of the time.
I still have my days, as we all do, but the underlying core of my being is happy. Genuinely happy.
I have learned to love myself more and by doing that, I am able to attract more love and abundance and health and happiness into my life.
I feel safe to express who I really am, something I think most of us don’t feel comfortable doing, or have forgotten how to do after years of societal and family programming. I didn’t even realize I wasn’t being my authentic self until I started uncovering the layers.
I eventually came to realize the job I had was not who I was and I couldn’t stand being in a job I hated any longer. So I quit, cashed out my 401-K and paid for school to follow my passion of helping others heal through nutrition and inner emotional healing. It’s been a rough journey at times, as not following the status-quo can be, and I’ve had to deal with lots of financial struggle.
But two years later it has all broken loose and I am happier and freer than I have ever been and I know that the best is yet to come. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has definitely been worth it.
Life is a journey, not a destination, and I have learned how to enjoy the moments that make up that journey.
It all started with getting physically healthy.
So I encourage you, I encourage anyone who chooses to embark on a journey to health, to stick with it.
You will come up against so many personal and internal obstacles. You will come up against patterns of self sabotage, you will beat yourself up when you aren’t doing it perfectly, you will feel shame, guilt, anger and fear. You may uncover deep traumas and realize that your physical weight is really a manifestation of trying to protect yourself emotionally or from physical or sexual abuse.
You will doubt yourself. Often.
You will cry and you will feel emotional pain. You will feel so incredibly alone at times. But you aren’t. You really really aren’t.
I promise you, stick to it and you will push through to the other side if you are ready. The other side is so incredibly amazing and beautiful that you will be so grateful to yourself that you did.
Surround yourself with friends and loved ones that support you through your process.
The biggest gift you end up giving yourself is you. Your happiness, your healing, your true self.
And that, my friends, is real freedom.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Bronwyn Petry / Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Krystof Magyar, Flickr Creative Commons