May 23, 2015

Making Peace with Food.


On the outside, I’ve always looked like a young, vibrant and “healthy” young woman.

A small physique with toned yet slender limbs, I frequented multiple yoga classes a week, ordered salads when eating out and never exceeded one or two cocktails during happy hour after work.

On the inside, however, things looked a bit different. I had spent the majority of my life battling food: what to eat, when to eat, where to eat and with whom to eat. Some days, my thoughts revolving food were so consuming, I had to shut them out completely; consequently, I usually spent those nights fasting or (guiltily) binging on anything in sight.

I actually don’t remember a day without those thoughts; I think they began about 15 years ago, when I was a teenager struggling to express my feelings about my parents’ recent divorce and rapidly changing body. Soon thereafter, I made a habit of eating (or fasting) to express those emotions, and boy, was I good at it! Since its small, inconsequential beginning, however, this vicious, poisonous cycle of thoughts had slowly begun to take over my body, and life.

It wouldn’t be until I couldn’t eat that I began to make peace with food.

When I say I couldn’t eat, I mean that with every bit of nourishment I consumed I began to slowly experience a widespread, throbbing pain throughout my body, which would end with me spending the afternoon in the nurse’s office at my school.

A few months before, I had been diagnosed with several chronic illnesses, including fibromalygia, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypothyroidism and a malfunctioning liver, to name a few. On that listless afternoon, my doctor handed me six different, highly addictive painkillers with a glassy smile, “these should help with the pain.” What he didn’t mention, however, was how my diagnoses were intimately interconnected, or how healing would begin with changing my thoughts, and subsequently, my lifestyle.

At first, I followed his advice, working miserably through the throbbing pains, popping pills when it became unbearable. I realized that the longer I waited between meals, the better I could function and the less pain I felt. Yet in a few weeks time, the pains and numbness I was becoming so used to would show up immediately after eating only a tiny morsel of food. So, I did what I thought any normal human being would do: I began avoiding and eliminating food of almost every kind.  I intensely feared anything that came on a plate or in a bowl.

After several bouts of this unsustainable cycle, I found myself in the office of a local naturopath, his words still stinging in my ears: “You are severely malnourished, your liver is malfunctioning, your toxic buildup is off the charts, and most importantly, your gut is extremely leaky.

He went on to explain that small portions of the undigested food I was consuming were bypassing my broken down, over porous intestinal lining, and flowing freely into my bloodstream.  To fight off infection, the rest of my body began to attack these foreign invaders, calling my liver to the rescue. Soon, not only my liver, but also my entire immune system was called to the battle, working overtime to filter my blood and regulate my gut. My body was battling itself, while simultaneously trying to calm my overworked organs, causing a variety of food intolerances and the pervasive pain I knew so well.

To make things worse, Mr. Naturopath ended his explanation with a bang, “The only way to heal your gut is with nutritious food.”

Some days, my mind still tries to avoid the pain (and deny his “words of wisdom”) by telling me I do not want to eat, that it will only cause more harm; but my body knows better. It reminds me of the nutrients I need for my malnourished and a little bit toxic, healing body.

Today, I am learning to make peace with food.

I am learning to eat three wholesome, nutritious meals, made of quality ingredients per day.

I am learning to eat what is accepted by my leaky gut and malfunctioning liver.

I am learning to eat what hasn’t been doused in chemicals that are toxic to my already contaminated system.

I am learning to eat what is low in salicylates and phenols, proteins my body doesn’t have energy to break down right now.

I am learning to eat without shame, or guilt.

I am learning to eat for the energy to attend a yoga class or read a book.

I am learning to eat to heal all of the damage I have done to my body by ignoring what it was telling me for so many years.

And I am learning to eat because in the end, we are what we eat.

Although it would take me 15 years and a lot of doctor visits, I am slowly learning how to make peace with food.  I am no longer the slender, toned yogini my self-image was based on; I am a more vibrant, conscious and strong young woman ready to take on the challenges laid before me.

Each day, I remind myself that food is not the enemy. I now recognize that a lack of intuition combined with the negative thought pattern I had developed when it came to food was what was keeping me from attaining the holistic health that any and every body needs to thrive.


Author: Kelsey Beth Paul

Editor: Alli Sarazen

Photo: Abd Allah Foteih/Flickr

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