I can’t believe how long ago this was. I have to look at this picture from time to time to remind myself how far I’ve gone. This was me in my 20’s. After years of going to doctors trying to figure out why I was having chronic pain, reflux, fatigue, insomnia and a host of other “ailments with no known causes,” one doctor finally put a “name” on my constellation of symptoms: fibromyalgia syndrome.
Wow. I was relieved. I’ve gone through years of tests – sleep tests, muscle stimulation tests that involved painful electrodes, you name it. No one could tell me what was wrong. And there was suggestion that I may be “imagining” it. Which helped a LOT, as you can imagine! On the opposite side of the spectrum, one of the doctors threw the possibility of “myasthenia” out there – which is a progressive degeneration of the muscles – of which there is no known cure. That helped a lot too.
A diagnosis of fibromyalgia gave my symptoms some sense but not quite as much as I thought it would. First, it is an “idiopathic” disease — causes for fibromyalgia and some related rheumatoid conditions are unknown and there are many theories ranging from prolonged stress to genetics to environmental sensitivities. There is no real agreement out there on even how to classify the syndrome – is it a “functional somatic syndrome” or a mental disorder? Because anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome and digestive diseases (now recognized a autoimmune disorders) often come with fibromyalgia.
But those ambiguities didn’t matter. Because magically, with this diagnosis, doctors suddenly knew what to do! Naturally, I was prescribed pills that will ward off each of the symptoms. Five pills. Taken everyday. In my 20’s. I didn’t have to do anything. Not even quit my occasional smoking!
Well lo and behold, they mostly did put the symptoms at bay. Reduced pain, somewhat better sleep, a way to tame the acid reflux, less anxiety (with some sleep and less pain I would expect that!). And I became a poster child for fibromyalgia. Hence this magazine article. A “success” story!
After a few months of taking the pills, I went back to my doctor, completely optimistic and asked when I can get off them. He said, maybe never.
In my head I was calculating. If I live to 85, I have about 60 more years of taking these pills. I stated this obvious calculus and asked my doctor about it.
I left the doctor’s office in a tizzy. Really? No. There has to be a better way.
And that’s when my journey started.
I researched enough to get a PhD, I felt like. And in this research, I was reading story after story of people “curing” themselves through food. By changing their diet and lifestyle.
This was new agey bullshit to me. My skeptic hackles all went up. Why would a doctor not tell me this? Why would I have all this pain when most Americans eat the same way I do? No one else is getting sick eating processed food and fast food and potatoes as vegetables? (Or so I thought.)
Maybe I added a little bit more vegetables to my repertoire. Sure. I started practicing yoga. But even as I continued to read I couldn’t really commit to even TRY and change my diet. It was all too much. The prospect of changing the way I ate. It takes too much time. Too much effort. Too much relearning. Too anti-social (I lived in NYC where food is central to the lifestyle!) How do the hemp-wearing birkenstock-loving peeps do it?? (I kid.) Popping five pills a day is easier. Its invisible (just like the disease) And harmless. Yes?
Then I learned I was expecting my first child.
Life upside down again. I could not imagine popping these pills while I was growing this little ball of wonder. I could not imagine being in any pain or being dependent on pharmaceuticals as I raise this child. How can I keep up with him?
And that was the catalyst I needed. It wasn’t logic, nor all the research. It was love.
Quitting smoking came first (duh). Then I attended classes. I received nutrition and yoga certifications as a by product (I was studying for myself). I gave the new age bullshit a chance.
At its simplest – I took artificial ingredients and chemicals out first. I added a volume of vegetables. VOLUME. Not a side. A major part of the plate. I did an elimination diet (the hardest part of it all) and took out food that I saw caused reactions. I reduced my meat intake by a LOT (vegetables overtook them on my plate). Then I hardly ate meat at all. I took a few (very few) supplements and herbs to help heal.
You can predict what I will say next.
No more pills. No more symptoms. And I feel younger than I did in my 20s. A nice little unexpected effect.
Now I start with food whenever I feel an illness coming on or if I feel that my body needs something. For example, pregnancy and nursing and the hormone fluctuations (of which I am right smack in the middle of right now) that come with that change what my nutrition needs are and my diet changes accordingly.
I became PASSIONATE about food as I saw how little its role in our health was being shared. In fact, how the opposite is happening. And we are getting sick.
Suddenly, we accept taking statins and diabetes medication in our 30s, 40s and even our childhood. Kids taking acid reflux medication. ADHD medication. Adults managing chronic pain through pills. Par for the course, they say.
I am not saying that pharmacology has no role in our lives. Used correctly, they spell the difference in many lives. But often, we don’t even try to go back to life at its core: to change what we do that harms us in the first place.
I started working with people. People with severe heart disease, type 2 diabetes, digestive disorders, chronic and autoimmune disease, yes, fibromyalgia and even just plain “stress” (we all know what that is). And the fulfillment from seeing people change from ill health to leading vibrant lives is unbounded. I am their biggest cheerleader.
While I would hear “Thank you for changing my life.” I would tell them that it was them. I was there at a point in their lives when they decided that they would let love lead the way. A true love for themselves and a true desire to express love to the people who matter to them. A big part of that is a decision to be healthy.
My only role was to show them that this life is DELICIOUS. That it is not meant to be restrictive. It is meant to be liberating.
There is no magic pill. But there is the power of knowledge. Of learning about your body and knowing how to respond.
This is my life work.
And I want to share this world of new possibilities with you.
So, join me, the East End Food Co-Op and Ankit Goyal of Fresh from The Farm Juices on a movie date.
On Friday, January 24, we will be screening “Hungry for Change” at 6:30 at The Gemini Theater. I love this documentary because it is not about dietary dogma – its not about veganism or paleo or anything like that that I feel misses the point – its simply about food and how it affects us. It’s a groundbreaking first step that you can take with very little investment in time (and hey you’ll meet amazing people too!)
So, this start of 2014, take a few friends with you and join me on a date.
Here’s to the best that is yet to come!
More details and sign up here:
East End Food Co-Op: http://www.eastendfood.coop/archives/4161
SEE YOU THERE!
If you would like to find out more about working together, visit this page.