The first time I noticed food affecting my mental health was in 2017, arguably one of the best years of my life. I was working with a trainer and was introduced to a low carb/high protein diet and weight training; it was also the year I re-discovered Yoga.
First, I noticed how easy it was to say no to sugar, which was no easy feat as a lifelong lover of all the sweets. After around the two-week mark, it was easier to say no and moderate, which was new to me as well. I've never been one to make a habit stick; I've always said, "I can do anything for two weeks!" However, it wasn't something that was sustainable for me. Cheat days crept into cheat weekends, and the eventual garbage gut came back with a vengeance.
It did, however, give me something I'd never had before, and that was experience. I'd only done crash diets that had you eating only cottage cheese for 5 days with lemon water and cayenne, OR sugar-free EVERYTHING, OR good ole fashion diet pills. Oh, this makes me so sad and feel so icky thinking about what I did to my poor body.
For the first time, I had used real food and liked it! I enjoyed meal prepping and spending time making meals for myself for the week. I'd spend time packing my breakfast and lunch. That preparation and dedication flowed over into other parts of my life, and I was doing more than I had ever done before in my life. I was clear-headed and motivated most days. While this wasn't my perfect diet, and my life hadn't yet found its balance, it was the catapult to where I am today.
When I truly found the wonders of food as medicine was about two years after sobriety. White-knuckling through life for 20 years had left me on empty.
A Dr who just happened to have time to sit down with me long enough to let me lose my shit and said AND I QUOTE "Girl, you have GOT to chill out! Seriously, do you meditate?" This was a Dr's professional advice. He also advised removing gluten from the diet and cooking my vegetables. He suggested I look into a low FODMAP diet to help heal my guts and get off the Nexium and weird medication that dropped my heart rate to 40 bpm. I was 30 pounds overweight and was asked if I was a marathon runner...
So, out of desperation, I did. I scoured the internet for low FODMAP meals and started to eat differently. I explored all kinds of different food! Curiosity was getting the best of me, and I got REALLY excited about this whole gut thing. I'd NEVER felt better in my life! This coming from someone who could barely get out of bed 12 months prior is a BIG DEAL! In 20 years, I hadn't felt like this! When I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, one of my biggest/worst symptoms was heavy legs and restless legs. I can't quite explain what that feels like, but during the day, it feels like you're dragging around brick shoes, and at night, when you're trying to get some GODDAMN SLEEP, it feels like someone is tickling you from the inside. It's pleasant...
That feeling was GONE!
Down the rabbit hole, I went and learned everything I could about gut health! I started with myself as the guinea pig and found my PERFECT diet!
Mine looks like this:
Gluten Intolerant: fine in moderation, can build up problems easily. (GERD, brain fog, joint pain, eczema, itchy skin)
Sugar Addictive: HIGHLY addictive to sugar.
Dairy Intolerant: Same with Gluten, but symptoms vary (indigestion, upset stomach, allergies, mucus build-up)
*adding sugar and dairy together (ice cream is really irritating to my system)
There are a few here and there that I don't tolerate well, but can tolerate almost everything in moderation. I know this because I wrote about it. I did an elimination diet and learned not only about my symptoms and the related food but also how to reconnect to my body and learn how to truly care for it.
I want to share some invaluable lessons that have deeply resonated with me, and I hope they resonate with all of you too. We're all human, and let's face it, life throws us curveballs and challenges. But what really counts is our ability to rise again, dust ourselves off, and start from where we stand. It's okay to stumble; what matters most is getting back up and taking that first step forward.
Remember, we don't have to go through life's ups and downs alone. Embrace the support and guidance from those around you; it's a sign of strength, not weakness. Being accountable for our actions is a powerful tool in making positive changes. And if you ever find yourself struggling to find your footing, never hesitate to reach out and share your thoughts. Let's have a chat because together, we can navigate the path to better health and well-being, one step at a time.