There was a point in my life about 16 years ago when I was spending $900 a month - without permission - on my dad’s credit card, buying vitamins and the latest cure-alls from Whole Foods. I spent every dollar of my own on yet another naturopath visit, acupuncture session, or detox guru. I had massages with crystals and I did coffee enemas during 14 day liquid detoxes (before it was cool). I saw energy workers and nutritionists. I ate an insanely isolating raw diet, bringing my own food to social events and using words like “safe” and “contaminated” whenever questioned. I even refused to swim in swimming pools because of the chlorine.
To my credit, I was super sick and no traditional doctor I went to could help me find what was happening. I couldn’t leave my house without charting where available bathrooms were along my route, as I rarely made it minutes without needing one desperately. I had lost my period. My body ached every single day, as if I had the flu. And those were just a few of the symptoms. So, the internet and I took a deep dive into the off-the-beaten-path to heal myself. The stuff I started finding out felt so true. It all made sense, at least that is what my exhausted and fed up brain led me to believe. I learned about cofactors of vitamins, food combining, estrogenic toxins in our environment, fluoride, leaky gut, vaccines, candida, and good/bad bacteria. I thought that if I just handled all of it and controlled all of these scary variables, that I would suddenly and swiftly become healthy. I really believed this. And, thus, I spent every waking hour and every dollar dedicated to this pursuit.
I’ll cut to the chase: What ended up healing me was a good therapist, cooked food, and a proper medical diagnosis for a couple of autoimmune diseases. I had to learn that the world is full of toxins, our food full of possible contaminants and unhealthy ingredients, and our bodies full of imbalances. I also had to learn that I could handle it all. I had to let my nervous system take a chill pill and feel the security of the words: I CAN HANDLE THIS. Once I felt that and once I reinforced it by breaking all the constricting rules I had made, I kid you not, I got healthier than I had ever been in my life.
It was baffling to me. Here I had been, the perfect steward of all the right things to do in the name of nutrition and wellness, and the thing that healed me was walking away from all I had learned. But, that is how it worked for me.
Now, I will say that some of what I learned has proved helpful to me. I learned that my body can’t tolerate nuts, soy, dairy, corn, or gluten (I have Celiac and Hashimoto’s Disease). I learned so many incredible things about our magnificent ecosystems and the microbiome. I learned about the relationship between our gut and our minds. I learned about digestion and inflammation. There were so many positives that came out of that time. But, the truth is that these positives were made completely useless because of the way in which I was applying them. I had made the assumption that I was broken and falling apart, that something was terribly wrong with me and the world, and that I wasn’t safe unless I was in control of all of it. The result? My nervous system fell into a deeply entrenched pattern of fear and stress with every bite and breath I took. This led to me getting more and more sick, rather than healthy.
I truly believe that the path to my health came from a very basic scientific reality: If our nervous systems are focused on survival rather than on thriving, they will not be focused on things like food absorption and digestion or reduction of inflammation. Instead, your dear nervous system is focused on very primal things. The priority is no longer thick hair and happy poops, but instead: HOW WILL I KEEP THIS WOMAN ALIVE?
So, my eventual road to health came about because I made a decision to make healthy choices for my unique body, but to also believe that I was safe within the innate imperfection of every second of our existence. I decided (and was taught) that resiliency is more effective than perfection. And I decided that being connected to the world around me was more important than being the good patient. In essence, I made a choice for curiosity rather than catastrophe.
Some folks might like to now start discussing positive psychology, but - while I’m not knocking the value system at all - for me, personally, that was equally constricting for me. Most days, my mind is a group of wild toddlers trying to have a business meeting. Trying to control it or tame it or ask it to be positive often just leads to more distress. But, that’s just me. The real deal is that I made a choice to stop thinking I was broken, to embrace the chaos that lived inside me and around me, and to allow curiosity to birth resiliency.
That choice gave me permission to hang on to certain principles of nutrition and fitness without then drawing hard lines around my identity and my access to feeling good. It freed me up to have bad days and good days, urging me to ask the question: “What is happening with me?” Rather than asking, “What is wrong with me?”
This is why I am very very very very careful about being an expert in the fitness world. I’d love to give you all the vast info I learned. I’d love to help you control the chaos that often causes disease in so many of us. However, I care more about your ability to be present with joy and to believe in your gut that you are safe, even in the midst of all that is not.
You are safe.
You are not broken.
You can handle this.
Make a choice for curiosity rather than catastrophe.
And decide that you deserve to be truly well in a real deal way rather than chasing wellness in a punishing way.