“Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.”
As I was watching Game of Thrones when it (finally) returned to my TV screen this summer, I was thinking how cool it would be to have a bunch of titles and someone to walk in front of me to introduce me like the badass I am, like Dany. If I could somehow get her costume budget too, that would be aces.
But as the thought lingered and finally took hold, I realized that I have a LOT of titles. Most women do, if you think of it. I’m a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother of one human and two dogs, a friend, a Realtor, a fashion lover, a selfie aficionado, an inappropriate joke teller, a person with several chronic illnesses, and an online health and fitness coach.
OK, hold up. If you don’t know me, those last two probably struck you as odd. Chronic illness patient and fitness coach? Yep. Stick with me here.
In 2008, I started feeling terrible. I was exhausted, I had major stress, I had severe pain in several areas of my body. I was super stressed out and had no idea how to manage it. I’d recently married my current husband, who was SUCH an upgrade from the last one, made a great career move to the real estate company I work at today, my son was thriving, and I had great friends. Luckily, a sweet benefit of my marriage was health insurance, so I started using it to go see doctors to find out what the fuck was happening with my body. I had so many tests done, and nothing was conclusive. I felt like I just continued to deteriorate, and I was certain the doctors didn’t believe me; that they thought this was all in my head. Finally, I had a doctor diagnose me with fibromyalgia, which I’ve come to discover is often just a long word for, “We don’t know exactly what’s wrong with you, but we do believe something is up.” I even got a referral to a Rheumatologist who said, “OK, your bloodwork is low positive for autoimmune disease, but you don’t check enough boxes to be diagnosed with one of them, so we need to wait and see what symptoms develop, and here’s some pills called Lyrica so I hope that works.”
If you’re a doctor who happens to be reading this, DO NOT TELL A PERSON SHE’S GOING TO GET ONE OF 16 TERRIBLE FUCKING DISEASES AND SEND HER TO WEB MD. Also? All of them sound terrible, because they all can be.
So, here I was, just 33 years old with a 9 year old kid, in pain, exhausted, miserable, with what looked like a pretty shitty life sentence. I went back to my old standby, emotional eating. When you combine emotional eating with a drug like Lyrica and a less than ideal genetic predisposition to gaining weight, it’s a perfect recipe for gaining 25 pounds in three weeks. Super. The doctor who prescribed the pills kind of shrugged when I told him they added to the size of my ass and didn’t help any of my pain, but told me to keep taking them and try to lose the weight. He said, “Eat less and move more.” I stopped taking Lyrica, because the side effects were worse than the problem they were supposed to treat. I’m glad I did, since recent research shows that it can kill new brain synapses.
Desperate, I started seeing other doctors. At one point, I saw a chiropractor who is also a naturopath. He’s amazing and put me on a 30 day elimination diet and ran a bunch of tests to see which foods were inflammatory and caused leaky gut syndrome, which he knew irritated every autoimmune and thyroid disorder, plus some other diseases as well. It was HARD. I was a vegetarian at the time, working diligently towards becoming a vegan, having done my own research on food as medicine. Plus, I’ve never liked meat. Dr Kan’s diet consisted of vegetables, fruits, and meat, mostly red meat, preferably organ meat, and lots and lots of supplements. I made a deal that I’d add seafood into my diet, but not meat. He wasn’t happy with me, probably because he knew it wouldn’t be sustainable for the long term. He was right. I did the diet, and his testing showed that I was VERY sensitive to gluten and should avoid it at all costs, and I should limit dairy and soy. Great. I’m a pizza and beer girl at heart, but I stuck to it for a while. Eventually, I’d let myself slip. It didn’t take long for a slip to become an avalanche, and I was able to sort of rationalize it to myself. None of the other doctors told me what to eat! Maybe this guy is a quack. (Spoiler alert: he is not.)
Years went by, and I was diagnosed with Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Degenerative Disc Disease. The medications I was on for Lupus and RA, particularly, were nasty. I gained 40 lbs in 6 months on Prednisone. I mean, it’s pretty cool that it kept me alive, but being 80 lbs overweight, as I was at that point, wasn’t great for my joints or my back. All of my doctors said I should lose weight, but nobody recommended a nutritionist, natural or otherwise. I was talked into a spinal fusion surgery that failed and caused more pain than I was in to start with. Then they recommended a spinal cord stimulator that also didn’t help and caused more problems. I’d been on and off of so many medications that my side effects had side effects. Try running a career and a life with all of that going on. It. Sucks. It’s honestly not possible. I even gave up on vegetarianism because it clearly wasn’t working either.
In December of 2016 I had a surgery to revise the spinal cord stimulator. It didn’t “fix” me, but it took my pain levels back to where I was at the time of the failed fusion. I now have the diagnosis of “failed back syndrome.” For several months, a friend of a friend of mine who was an online coach had asking me to join a challenge group. I’m not even sure why I stayed Facebook friends with this tall, thin, pretty, positive human. Honestly, with where I was mentally and physically, the workouts she posted sometimes made me sad that I’d never be able to get fit like that. I turned her down politely many times, but she started promoting a free Whole 30 group beginning in January of 2017. I remembered that Dr. Kan’s elimination diet did, in fact work for me, even though I talked myself out of believing it. This group Katie was running was free. It was just the diet, no burpees or cross jacks. I could do that, right? I had to try.
The first two weeks of eating veggies, lean meats, fruits and nuts were hell. My body did NOT enjoy all that detoxing. Once I got through the hell though, I was pretty amazed and how GOOD I felt. The book said that people with autoimmune issues could take longer to get the full benefit, because of leaky gut syndrome, which IS A THING, so I stayed on it for an additional 60 days. I’d lost over 20 lbs at that point. I was at a stage in my life that I’d hit rock bottom so low with my terrible relationship with food and with myself that I was open and ready for change. Katie had believed in me that I could do this Whole 30, so when she told me that I could buy a 30 Day Challenge Pack from her and join her accountability group full time, staying on track with my eating and doing the low impact exercise routines at home, I chose to believe her. Money back guarantee and all, right? I would be stupid not to try. I started with a country line dancing program for 45 days or so. I’m super uncoordinated but I started getting hooked on those endorphins and how great I felt when I avoided my inflammation trigger foods and took care of my body.
To date, I’ve lost over 60 lbs this year. I became a coach in early summer because I KNOW there are women out there right now who are in a similar mental/or physical health decline. They’re where I was last year. It’s an ugly, lonely, and horrible place, and if I have a way to help someone help themselves out of it, I will. I’ve stumbled a bit emotionally and physically after a Lupus flare knocked me on my ass in September. I’d been busy as hell at work and had some pretty severe stress, which lead to a lack of sleep and me giving myself excuses that I didn’t have time to meal prep, so I started eating more sugar and splurging on gluten too often. It resulted in the Lupus flare. Amazing how it all happened almost like clockwork.
I will tell you that I am PISSED still. I’m so angry that I had to experience almost a decade of straight hell because the traditional doctors and specialists I trusted gave me pills to deal with everything. Obviously I was desperate for ANY kind of relief, so I took them. I took the steroids, the low dose chemo, the pain pills, the $2600a month biologic shots that insurance covered until they didn’t and the antidepressants (even though I wasn’t depressed and nobody bothered to check to see what kind of havoc they could wreak on my brain, that apparently had an underlying chronic illness of its own that came raging on in full force because antidepressants are a trigger). I went through HELL for so long, and it almost cost me everything I care about, and not one of those doctors said, “Hey, why don’t you try eating whole foods, and whole foods only. Eat lean meat that’s grilled or baked, and nothing out of a deep fryer. No processed shit, no grains, no sugar. Just food that grows out of the earth except for grains and legumes. Give that a shot for like a month or so, and then add back in those other foods we all like so much one at a time and see how you feel.
Why don’t they do that? It’s fucking magical when you find the right foods to fill your body and learn which ones make you miserable. Do they not know? One would think that spending 13 years or so in post-secondary training and schooling would somehow cover it. Either the way medical schools, teaching hospitals or clinics, or however specialists like rheumatologists are trained are sorely lacking on information and evidence on how the common American diet keeps us fat, sick and nearly dead, or they’re giant fans of the kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies when they give me drugs that destroy my life. Fun stuff, America. If you’ve never had to see a specialist on a long term basis, consider yourself lucky and take what I’m saying as information from someone who has been through it. I’ve sat for two hours in a waiting room in a great deal of pain while I watch the pharma girls bring in catered lunches for the staff, balancing bags of gluten and fat (lots of bagels in the mornings, Applebees and other garbage in the afternoon) on their stiletto heels that look great with the pencil skirts on their 25 year old perfectly healthy bodies. It happens everywhere.
SO this is why I coach. This is why I care. This is why everything I do seems really incongruent. Someone has to do it, and why not me?
Gentle Hugs, Selfish Mitch