Almost five years ago I sat down with my best friend to define my values and goals, this work being really new to me at the time. As we ideated on my values I landed on "radiantly healthy" as one of them. Visions of green juice and washboard abs and long runs danced in my head.
Now I'm a lot of things but radiantly healthy isn't exactly one of them. The thought of radiant health sounded wonderful but it wasn't my experience then and it's not my experience now. Over the past two years I've made dozens of changes in my life that have helped me feel my best and helped me redefine my "well." A well that is uniquely mine to action and support and doesn't need to look like anybody else's.
A little back story:
I grew up in Iowa on a meat and potatoes diet. My mom had a brief flirtation with getting really "hippie" in the kitchen and with a whole host of herbs (I was grounded once for eating Skittles after she'd cleansed Red #40 out of me. Ha!) but for the most part we ate well and "normal."
After attending college I moved to Washington DC where I subsisted on happy hour Buffalo Wings and a whole lot of booze. I noticed that my stomach was often not right. (I mean whose could be?!) But this continued for years. I'd sometimes be constipated for a week or more. Bloated and swollen almost constantly.
It took meeting my husband at 27 after moving to California and his disbelief at my eating habits and health symptoms for me to really question what I was up to. As much I chataranga-ed and meditated I couldn't right the harm I was doing to my body. I had become used to feeling absolutely terrible and dressing in a way that hid my swollen tummy. It was my normal.
Matt and I embarked on our first Whole30 two months into dating. People told us we'd never last. "You're supposed to be wining and dining these first few months! Not cutting out gluten, sugar, dairy and alcohol." I was terrified. I'd never cut out anything in my life, except calories to lose weight. I had no knowledge of nutrition. I didn't think I could do it. But I absolutely did. Made it all thirty days without cheating one single time (and even cut out caffeine too!) and felt wonderful. I would bound out of bed in the morning. Run and go to yoga almost every single day. Cook with this man I was falling madly in love with. And my skin was clear and radiant. Oh, and my body was working like clockwork. Right then and there I decided to make some big changes in my life and to find out what was wrong.
After seeing a specialist I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I was put on medication which helped a lot and continued to eat pretty well. And just this past year I was diagnosed with somewhat mild Endometriosis (thank God.) I've been to many doctors, eastern practitioners, healers, even the ER. Every affliction has one thing in common - inflammation.
In these past two years I have changed my entire life. While that first Whole30 inspired something in me, I wasn't ready to take the plunge and change my habits. I have now. My health has become of the utmost importance to me as I've seen the power in my choices and the power of going against the grain.
Here are a few of the biggest changes I've made in my life to feel really good:
Cut out alcohol.
In January I will be have been "booze-free" for two years. Cutting out alcohol is the best choice I've ever made for my physical, mental and emotional health. I instantly dropped about fifteen pounds. My body was less swollen and inflamed. I'm never hungover. I could go on and on. The challenge, of course, is giving up that glass of wine (or several in my case) with friends but once I realized that I idealized alcohol in my moments like that I've found that my evenings out with my friends are just as good without it. And those friends who don't want to hang as much if you don't drink? Lose them. I am so proud of myself and now feel zero shame around being someone who doesn't drink.
I eat a gluten-free diet with zero to little dairy or sugar. Sure, I totally splurge from time to time and eat my favorite chicken nachos but for the most part I eat clean and this has made a huge difference in my health.
Switch to tea.
Coffee makes me asshole. A to-do list maniac with every tab open on my browser. I've since switched to Vital Protein's Matcha Collagen and FourSigmatic's Mushroom Coffee. Both have a low caffeine content and a host of health benefits. Plus are way more delicious than coffee anyway.
Okay, so my current line up is this:
- Vitex and Milk Thistle twice a day for hormone health and skin love. (I take five days off Vitex a month because it can be intense. Read how to supplement with it carefully if you try it. It's made a huge difference for me.)
- Beef Gelatin and Cartilage Collagen for intestinal health and healthy skin.
- Wobezym Digestive Enzymes to help break down food. I've tried a lot of digestive enzymes and I swear by these.
- I also take SmartyPants vitamins and extra Vitamin D.
Drink lots of H20.
I drink a ton of water throughout the day. Often in the form of a La Croix can (grapefruit please!) but am getting better about drinking just regular ol' H20 too.
Move my body.
Whether it's going for a long walk with Rosy or practicing in my home yoga studio or at Wanderlust Hollywood or a super sweaty workout at Pharos Athletic Club, moving my body everyday is important. I focus on what feels good that day and what is needed.
I'll definitely write more about my health journey and what makes a big difference for me going forward. Shoot me a note if there's anything you want me to expand upon.