It’s been a while since I’ve shared my health journey.
For a long time I felt like some sort of “in the closet” crunchy-granola, green-livin’, real-food-believin’ hippie. Sure, the people who really know me know that I believe in health. And if someone asked I’d be more than happy to share a DIY cleaning product recipe, or talk about why I love raw milk. But far too often I tried to keep the things I did quiet. I don’t like making too much noise when it comes to how I live my life. Because, sometimes, I feel like a complete wacko.
Most days I think I live a pretty normal life. My house is nice and clean (just toxic free). My food is nice and clean (just toxic free). My body is nice and clean (just toxi… you get the point.) I don’t have long unwashed hair that’s parted down the side with twigs or flowers in it. I don’t bob my head around like I’m in some sort of crazy daze. The truth is I just feel more grounded, relaxed, healthy, and energized by the very things other people think are “weird.” And if you are comparing my day-to-day living to that of a “normal” person… well, I am weird. Or at least different.
I’m okay with that. In fact, I feel pretty darn good about it.
Of course, I didn’t start this way. I grew up in a “normal” home with good parents and lots of processed foods. It’s not that we had a lot of “junk food” in our house. My mom was pretty diligent in doing her best. She followed society’s wishy-washy, back-and-forth ideals of what was healthy. In fact, I still remember the day as a young child when my mom switched to skim milk because, you know, “fat will make you fat.” (sigh.)
Even though I didn’t grow up in some sort of hippie community farm, I have always been interested in health. In my youth I would set goals to eat less candy, exercise more, and reach an “ideal” weight. I believed what society told me and purchased only the products that were “healthy,” “low fat,” and “made with whole grains.” (sigh, again.)
Despite my attempts at being healthy, I struggled with acne, digestive issues, and weight problems. Even during my college days when I was dancing 8+ hours a day plus working out, I continued to feel trapped in someone else’s “not quite right” body. I wasn’t sick, but I sure didn’t feel at my peak.
During those years I had also experienced severe dry skin on my hands. Seriously, I felt like a leper. I would pour piles of lotion and frown as it just pooled in my palms, useless. This condition continued to come and go for four years. FOUR. YEARS. I finally went to a doctor to see what was wrong.
His diagnosis: Dry Skin.
His recommendation: Put some lotion on it.
(Head against wall.) *big sigh*
Frustrated, I went home and started researching. I spent hours online, reading chat forums, nutrition journals, and other people’s experiences. After a lot of consideration I determined I had an omega-3 deficiency. (Keep in mind this was several years before omega-3’s would be a “buzz” word. Nobody I knew had ever heard of omega-3 anything.)
I bought some flaxseed oil supplements and began my self-prescribed plan. Within a week or two my hands were back to normal. I soon traded the supplements for omega-3 foods (look at that, fat can be good!). It has been 12 years and I haven’t had a problem since.
What I’ve learned over the years (and through countless hours of research) is that we must take control of our own health.
My health journey was a shift in perspective: What is health care?
Let me be clear: Our health is our responsibility.
What does that mean to me? Does it mean never trusting my doctor or always going against modern medicine? No way. But it does mean not necessarily putting my whole trust in them without trying to learn, research, and considering all my options. It means using common sense, seeing a bigger picture of health, trusting my gut, listening to all sides, and doing what feels best.
Any journey toward real health must start with the realization that our health is our own. Instead of waiting for answers from those who too often only cover up symptoms, we need to take the steps necessary to get back to basics. We need to see that healthcare is not the same as sickcare. Health care is an ongoing and vibrant process, a personal journey.
Going Beyond Skin Care
After curing myself of my “dry skin,” I started looking for natural remedies to better my health as much as possible. That’s not to say that I think all pharmaceuticals are evil (although I can say that they all have side effects – most of which are not pleasant). I just believe that often the thing to cure us can be found in more simple things. Moving, nutrition, decluttering, balance, etc.—these things help lead us to real health. (All without negative side effects, too.)
Little by little I found my perspective of health changing. Certain things would shift my reality—forcing me to see things in a different light. Sometimes the ideas started out insane, stupid, or just silly. But more often than not, as I continued to dig, I soon realized that maybe the “normal” way of living was the insane way.
My health journey was a shift in perspective: What kind exercise?
I have always enjoyed moving. I would schedule workouts with friends even as a child. I did lots of situps and crunches every day (not something I would now recommend). I ran (and walked). I lifted weights. I stretched a lot. But as I mentioned before, despite all of this, I struggled with weight during my high school and college years. I don’t think anyone would call me fat. I was just really thick. I definitely didn’t look like the sleek-thin dancers I shared the stage with.
Immediately after I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I started a certification program in Laban Movement Analysis. We spent hours in the studio working on our body connectivity–reestablishing connections for greater ease and efficiency. It was a different aspect of health that I hadn’t considered.
Honestly, I’ve never really enjoyed “working out” in a traditional way, I find it boring. But I crave movement – and I find peace, energy, and balance when I move the way my body was designed to move.
Instead of plugging into music or some other distraction while exercising, I learned that I gain more when my mind and body are integrated. I learned about the importance of core muscles and how they serve the entire body (when properly connected). All of a sudden the extra muscle “thickness” that I had struggled with during my entire high school and undergraduate career melted away. I lost 2 inches on my thighs! Without trying, and still on my typical Standard American Diet (SAD), I lost twenty pounds. On top of that I had a new sense of posture that made my weight loss even more dramatic. I literally had people telling me they didn’t recognize me. I was amazed at what a fundamental, “back to basics,” approach could have on my health.
P.S. I now offer a course that teaches this basic movement fundamentals to other. If you are interested in learning how incredible you can feel inside your own body you can check it out here.
My health journey was a shift in perspective: What is real food?
I can’t pinpoint any one moment where my idea of food changed. It’s been a gradual journey over the past 4 years. But my desire to make a change went into hyper-drive when my husband and I began talking about starting a family. Wanting the best nourishment for my child mixed with some (let’s be honest) fear of screwing him/her up forever, I began researching more than ever. I looked over what our government recommended (oh, hello politically driven food system). I read books by nutritionists (same information I’d been hearing all my life.) I began slowly purging our house of all processed foods. I researched vegetarianism, paleo/primate diets, veganism, and raw lifestyles. I applied the principles that made sense, and listened to my body.
During this time I kept coming across blogs promoting the principles of the Weston A. Price Foundation. While I don’t really like the idea of categorizing myself into any single “way” of eating, the principles made sense: Eat like our ancestors. Eat real food. Learn to cook. Learn to prepare, plan, and enjoy.
Like I said, I don’t think I fit perfectly into any one “diet.” My family tries to eat meat sparingly, especially during the warm months. When we do purchase meat, we try to buy it in as whole a form as possible. We try to use as much as the animal as possible (yeah, I eat organ meats. I also make my own bone broth. Take that, Betty Crocker.) And most importantly, I am more than willing to pay the extra price for food that comes from animals treated kindly. I eat lots of clean, raw milk. I eat lots of pastured eggs and butter. I buy local and organic as much as possible, from farms I know and trust. Not only does the food taste better, but I know I’m getting less garbage, more nutrition, and helping the planet.
I realize how fortunate I am to have access to this kind of food. And it’s painful to know how many people are eating poorly because that’s all they can afford. I don’t take the for granted. But still, we make priorities in our home to afford the food we eat. We have one car, a modest home, and rarely spend money on clothes, movies, or other things. I am more than willing to pay the extra price for good food because as the cliche’ goes: I’d rather pay the farmer than the doctor. Besides, the money I was saving by not buying worthless processed fake food meant that my overall grocery bill isn’t that much higher than it was before I changed our diet.
I am amazed to see the drastic (and relatively quick) changes that occurred when I stopped buying food in a package and spent more time in the kitchen planning, chopping, and cooking. Once again I found myself losing weight, without trying. (Another 22 pounds to be exact… that’s 42 in all if you are counting. Yeah, FORTY-TWO.) I also noticed my bowels felt good. My skin finally stopped looking like I was going through puberty. I noticed that I wasn’t thinking about food all the time—the cravings were gone. After some dedication and patience, I even began to like my vegetables!
Health for me and my family
Not long after this I found out I was pregnant. I have never felt better in my whole life. I knew I was still on a journey to real health, and there would still be plenty of little side-tracks along the way (hello, second pregnancy that did a number on my hormones!), but I was excited to see the direction we were heading. I was especially grateful for the goodness I felt inside and out, knowing I would pass something good on to my children. If you don’t have your health, after all, you don’t have anything.
As I have continued on my journey I can say with a full heart that I am grateful for my body and grateful for those shifts in perspective that have brought me to this place. I am thankful for motion. I am thankful for real food. I am thankful for the good resources of the earth. You know what else I’m grateful for? My acne.
That’s right. I’m grateful for my acne.
This is actually a difficult thing for me to write about. I have struggled with acne since I was 11 (I’m in my mid 30’s now). It was a constant source of frustration and embarrassment. I never went anywhere without makeup on. Dance became my sanctuary because the only time I felt beautiful was when I was onstage and the focus was off my complexion. You can imagine how difficult it was when I started gaining weight. The only thing going for me, it sometimes seemed, was dance, my grades, and my (awesome!) sense of humor (ba-dum-dum-ching!).
(For the record – despite these body image issues I really did have a happy life full of good friends, laughter, and plenty of ego-building experiences. Even though I often struggled with how I looked, I never felt unloved because of it. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.)
During my teens and twenties I had tried all sorts of “stuff” for my acne: over-the counter creams, prescription drugs, online remedies, etc. In high school my mom had the dermatologist put me on birth control, which just made me crazy (stupid pills). Thankfully I avoided Accutane, but only because my older brother had such a horrible experience with it.
I remember once during my freshman year of college looking online for some sort of solution to my skin woes. I was getting desperate and it seemed my doctor couldn’t fix my acne. Maybe some sort of “miracle” treatment online would do the trick.
Then I found it: My acne “miracle” cure.
It wasn’t a drug or a cream. It was a way of life—mostly about diet with some stress topics as well. But the author promised a cure to my acne. Interesting, I thought (with a lot of skepticism).
I showed my mom and she consented to pay the $30 and we downloaded the massive book. The next morning I woke up and found my mom looking through the many printed pages. Apparently she had read through most of it before she went to bed.
“This would probably clear up your acne,” she said (with no excitement). “BUT, there’s no way anyone could live a life like this. It’s just too complex and requires too many weird things.” I don’t remember all the particulars, but I do remember hearing the phrase “cod liver oil.” That was enough for me to blurt out “gross” and move on.
…aaaand there went another $30.
Some years later, when I was beginning my health journey into natural living, I came across an article with the statement “why you should be thankful for your acne.” By this point I was nearing my mid 20’s and was sick and tired of feeling like a greasy teenager. In a bitter tone I said sarcastically, “Oh yeah, I am sooo thankful for my acne.” Still desperate for solutions, I continued to read the article. The main point being this (very much paraphrased):
Be thankful for your acne. It’s your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right. Most of us are experiencing ill health due to poor nutrition and unhealthy lifestyles. Some people are “unlucky” enough to not show symptoms, riding some “genetic inheritance” that keeps their skin perfectly clear. Be thankful that your body is sending you a message to change.”
This article didn’t make me stop in my tracks, but I had started my journey… even if I wasn’t aware of it yet. Eventually, step by step, I moved closer and closer to the way our bodies were designed to connect to the world. Changes came in my movement and diet. I started giving up our toxic cleaning supplies for homemade “green” versions. My husband finally convinced me that I was beautiful without my makeup so I gave that up, too. I tried to listen to my body, move it and energize it.
I’m grateful for my acne because it told me I needed to change.
I just started to “let go” of all those things our society tells us we need. I trusted the wisdom of those who lived before our lives were cluttered with products, fads, and chemicals. (Interestingly enough, so much of the things I now put into my body reflect the wisdom and advice of that ebook I bought those 10 or so years ago. Just goes to show that sometimes we need more time before we are ready to take the necessary steps. I take my cod liver oil every day now.)
Like I said, it’s been a very gradual journey with some major acceleration these past two years. But little by little I transformed.
Just after our first child was born I was talking to my husband about this whole transformation that I wasn’t really trying to make, but that happened anyway. The words that came out of my mouth surprised me, but got to the core of what I was feeling: “I finally feel like the real me is out. The me that I always felt was inside, but that nobody else could see.”
This is the power of basic health.
When we strip away all the clutter, trends, and guilt and then give ourselves time to refocus, go back to basics, and respect the wisdom of the body/nature, that is when the “real me” is able to come out. For someone who always struggled to feel beautiful, for the first time in my life I knew that I was beautiful. (I’m not planning on entering any beauty pageants or anything, but you get the point.) I also realized that there are probably lots of people out there who feel the same way I did: trapped under layers of “not me.”
I’m still on my journey.
Two pregnancies, sleepless nights, and the stress of running of a business have each forced me to adapt and find balance. There have been times when I’ve felt deflated by what seemed like backward steps in my health, but I’ve learned how wise the body is in compensating and doing it’s best when things get hard. I am not perfect, and don’t plan on being perfect in this life. But I am trying to keep moving in the right direction. Little by little. There are no easy fixes or instant pills to real health. It’s a process, a challenge, and an act of courage. It’s extremely personal with no “one size fits all” approach. It requires us to be “okay” with being weird. It requires us to slow down and reconnect. But it’s a worthwhile journey full of balance, energy, and joy.
Are you ready to start your journey?
I want to help you find the real you through real health. If you’re ready to start making healthy habits through easy steps, be sure to grab my free guide: Your Simply Health Handbook. Click here to get your copy.