Friday, June 14, 2013

My Health Journey

I know I usually talk about fashion and beauty on this blog but today I want to talk about my health journey, which has become very important to me and the main focus in my life right now. I have never talked about this on my blog before and I feel a bit vulnerable putting it out there but I want to be honest and open with you guys, my lovely readers, and maybe something I write in this post will resonate with one of you and help you on your journey.

Growing up as a dancer, I had the perfect ballet body. I was long, lean, strong and tall and could eat two quarter pounders, fries and a coke at McDonald's (which I did often) and not gain a pound because I was constantly burning calories. I took dance classes 5 times a week and I loved dancing - it was my life- until the tendonitis in my knees forced me to cut down. When I stopped dancing as much, I gained about 10 lbs. and for the first time ever I had to watch what I ate. I cut out all red meat and lost some of the weight by exercising and non-healthy dieting. But a year later, after a very painful breakup with my high school sweetheart (and entering my first year of college), I could not stop binge eating. Clearly, I was eating my feelings. I was out of control. (For those of you wondering, I did not purge after I would binge, thankfully.) I ended up gaining 25 pounds in a very short period of time and hated how I looked. Especially since I was in theater school at the time and was constantly surrounded by mirrors in dance class and rehearsals, plus I had to wear skimpy costumes for some of our productions. So I decided I had to stop the binge eating and focus on getting skinny again!! (I should have been focusing on self-love but that would come much later.) So I started dieting and the weight started to come off.  I also started doing Pilates, which I really enjoyed. I enjoyed it so much I later got my Mat Certification, and I still teach today, along with teaching Barre classes. I should mention here that I did not eat healthy at all while on this diet though. I basically would eat food with the lowest amount of calories and fat possible, devoid of any real nutritional value, just so I could eat more throughout the day. I didn't eat enough food either, I was always hungry (and cranky) when I went to bed. Over the course of a year and a half I lost around 35 lbs. I was way too skinny but I was obsessed with my weight and food. It was horrible. I couldn't enjoy life because I was too busy focusing on how many calories or fat grams were in everything I put in my mouth and staying thin. It was my way of staying in control during a time in my life where I felt very out of control.  With some guidance and help, I eventually put on a bit of weight that I was comfortable with and started to relax about food but it was really hard.

 Just in case you wanted to know where your gallbladder was located ; )

I am pretty sure the extreme dieting and rapid weight gain and weight loss had something to do with me getting gallstones at 18 years of age. Except I didn't know they were gallstones until I was 26!! I thought they were just "cramps!" Finally my doctor ordered an ultrasound and yup, I had a ton of large gallstones that were causing me intense, curl-up-in-a-ball pain for years! So I had surgery and got my gallbladder removed. (I also contracted a nasty staph infection which was just awesome!) Anyways, shortly after my surgery I decided to become a Vegetarian (for various reasons) and thought I was eating really healthy! Wrong. I was anemic and was put on an iron supplement by my doctor. And I was still having intense pain and bloating in my stomach, among other stomach problems I'll spare you with. I thought removing my gallbladder would have helped that? When I went back to my doctor she told me I should probably get a colonoscopy (FUN!) and get tested for Celiac disease. When both tests came back negative, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Sydrome. (Even more fun!!) She signed me up to see a dietician. Before seeing this dietician I had to journal what I ate for 3 weeks and when I showed her what I had written down she basically told me that if I keep eating the way I was eating I would be very malnourished and more susceptible to illness and disease. She asked if I would consider cutting out dairy and gluten. No way. I wasn't ready then. I already didn't eat meat, if I had to cut out dairy and gluten what the heck would I eat? Grass? So my dietician gave me a list of foods I should try adding to my diet, to help with my IBS as well as give me enough iron and protein to help with my anemia. I felt a bit better adding more nutritious foods to my diet but I was still feeling tired and every now and then I would get that intense pain in my stomach and it would blow up as if I was 4 months pregnant.

It wasn't until I met and started spending time with and really listening to my good friend Lisa, who writes Life By Leese when she moved back to Edmonton from New York City that I realized what you eat can actually make a difference in how you feel. I mean I guess I knew that all along but I was too lazy to make the necessary changes to live it. (Lisa gave a really good interview here to Keltie Colleen, which really inspired me, you should read it!) She is studying to be a holistic health counselor and is so passionate about healing through nutrition, health and wellness and living a healthy, fulfilling life that her positivity rubbed off on me and I asked her what I should do to help my IBS and another chronic illness I've been suffering with since I was a child (that's a whole other post!) and like the dietician I saw, she recommended cutting out all dairy and gluten. Dammit, I love my toast and I love my Dairy Queen Blizzards! But she just asked me to try it for 2 or 3 weeks. So a few days ago Lisa was kind enough to take me shopping to Planet Organic and Save-On Foods where I picked up a few staples to start with, including the items above. (The rest is in my refrigerator.) She also gave me recipe ideas, tips on juicing (which I have been doing for the past couple of months already) and ultra-healthy smoothie-making. I am slowly cutting out dairy and gluten from my diet and I'm not going to lie, it has been really hard so far. I have to consciously make healthier choices. But Lisa told me, "Don't focus on what you're cutting out, don't focus on what you can't have. Focus on all the great foods you can have and all the new, delicious foods you'll be adding to your diet and how they will make you feel." I know being Vegan and gluten-free will be hard at first but I'm willing to try. So that's where I'm at right now with my diet. I hope to be completely dairy and gluten-free by the end of this weekend, I'm just slowly weaning myself off. Right now, I'm feeling really good, with more energy than I've had in a long time. And I'm not counting calories or fat grams at all!

My very simple and favorite juice recipe: 
2 apples, 2 carrots, 1/2 cucumber, 2 celery stalks, a bunch of kale and a bunch of dandelion greens
(sometimes I will add a pear or lemon and a knob of ginger for extra taste)

In the past couple of months I have also started to amp up my workout routine, exercising 4 times a week instead of 2 or 3. I've been active all my life but I stopped doing a lot of cardio when I stopped dancing, I would just do Pilates or Yoga. I know how important cardio is for your heart, health and well-being so I've started walking when it's nice outside and also doing Tracy Anderson's DVD's. Her Metamorphosis package includes a 30 minute dance cardio section (along with a muscular structure section which is SO hard but you really see results!!) where she basically happily flails around and you have to follow her moves. I found it hard to keep up with her and the music really repetitive so I press play but do my own moves and choreography while listening to my iPod and basically dance around my living room like a boss for half an hour. Sometimes I look at the TV and follow her moves for a minute but then I get back into my own groove. When Tracy stops, I stop. It's a great workout! I do it twice a week, even though she says you should do it 6 times a week for 90 days to "transform" your body. But I get bored easily so on the other two days, I'll go to the Pilates studio and work out on the machines or go to a barre class, or do Ballet Beautiful or Barre 3 at home. I also teach 3 classes of Barre and Pilates a week now.

At the end of the day, for me it's not about just looking good, it's about feeling good, physically and mentally.  Because if you don't have a healthy mind and body, what do you have? And I finally realized this only recently! And only recently have I started to love my body. I wish it hadn't taken me this long but I'm glad I am now finally on the right track : ).

Thank you for listening : ). Have a wonderful weekend!


Nic Winski @ Dutchie Love said...

Such a great post Marie, thanks for sharing and for your bravery and honesty! Self love is so important, and its amazing that what we eat can affect us so much!

I'm still in the phase where I can eat anything and my body doesn't change but I know that I'm not healthy that way and that it's time to get active. I've been really interested in trying yoga or kickboxing. What is pilates all about?

At the beginning of the year I started going dairy free which is definitely a challenge! I tend to cheat a bit on weekends and suffer the consequences. I'm also interested in juicing - how much produce do you buy a week and how much juice do you get out of it? For the picture that you showed above, is that for one day of juice?

If you find some delicious dairy-free gluten-free recipes that you come across, I'd love to see them!

Melanie Liliana said...

This was such a great post Marie! I totally respect your full out honesty!
It's so true that we are what we eat and you're inspiring me to eat better! I wouldn't necessarily say I eat badly but I do have my habits!
I really want to work out more than I do too! 2 days a week isn't cutting it! Anyways, great post and I'd love to see another on your progress! x
p.s so sad I didn't see you last night :(


JennaStevie said...

This is such a wonderful open and honest post, I really appreciate that! These issues are not brought up enough in blogging and as women in general. Dieting and binge eating can have such adverse effects on your health, and it really sucks that you had to have surgery because of your gallstones.
It's so true that what you eat makes such a difference in how you feel and how you look (not just thinner, but healthy food means better skin, hair etc)
I have been thinking about adding smoothies/juices into my diet and I definitely will be trying that now!!
Fantastic post!!

Closet Fashionista said...

I really need to start watching what I eat. I'm still on my gymnastics diet (aka eating anything that I want, so not a diet, know eating) even though I stopped 7 years ago... I have been starting to eat more fruits (strawberries and apples because I'm picky) but I should do some research to find out what I really should be eating

Favorite Colour said...

This is a really great post. I am on my own journey to health right now. After being diagnosed with Celiac disease I gained almost 40 pounds. Some of it I needed, some of it is extra. While I have dieted and lost weight in the past, this time I want to not only loose the weight, but really be strong and healthy. I am so glad that you are talking about these kinds of issues. It is really comforting to feel like I am not the only person going through this.


Kate said...

I loved reading this post - thanks for sharing! I'm in a weird phase right now where I'm noticing a lot of negative changes in my body and feeling generally unwell a lot of the time, so I'm just at the beginning stages of figuring it all out. It's such a frustrating process and I just find there is so much conflicting information out there (go gluten free! eat whole grains! be vegetarian! be paleo!) and it's hard to figure out what's right for you. I'm starting with a round of blood tests next week and if nothing comes of that will head to a naturopath for some other testing. I don't want to spend too much time in this trial & error phase. Good luck with the gluten/dairy free! I'd love to hear more about how that goes over the next few weeks! xo.

Marie a la Mode said...

Thank you so much everyone! I am so grateful for your positive feedback!

Nic: Pilates is all about strengthening the core and lengthening your entire body. It totally changed mine. I've been doing it for almost 15 years. Search "Pilates" on Youtube and you'll see what it's all about ; ) You can do mat classes or get into the machines - the Reformer, Cadillac and others. The picture of the vegetables is for one juice. So that's how much I use in one day. That amount will give me 2 glasses of juice: one for me and one for my boyfriend. I will totally share any gluten and dairy free recipes with you!

Melanie: So sad I didn't get to see you too! : (

Favourite Color: I'm so glad you felt comforted reading this post! You're definitely not alone! xo

Kate: I hope you find out soon why you haven't been feeling so great so you can address it!

Courtney Erin said...

This was really amazing to read - thanks for being so open and upfront about your journey and all the unfavorable things you've experienced (and the successes!). I come from a very unhealthy family (eating and exercise-wise) and am genetically curvy and inclined to more, let's say Rubenesque proportions, so being vigilant about what goes into my body and staying active has always been important. But within the last three years (since I hit thirty) I've been noticing that I am monitoring those more for health and my overall sense of strength and physical well-being rather than for aesthetic purposes. I used to FREAK OUT if I gained 5 pounds and immediately kick things into high gear to drop it. And I still want to maintain my current weight, health, and strength levels but I feel like my motivations for wanting that are different now. I've also come to fully and happily embrace the fact that I will never be a size 4 (or a size 6 in most things for that matter)...and it feels wonderful! Very freeing...

Courtney ~


thank you for sharing your story doll this is absolutely amazing . you are beautiful

much love from NYC

J. said...

That was very powerful Marie. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story. Your honesty, courage, bravery and knowledge will help to motivate others!!!! You are truly beautiful both inside and out and I know this new food journey you are on will be a positive one for you.
I look up to you and I salute you!
:) J.

lauren said...

Thanks for sharing darling! I can 100% sympathize with your journey. After being constantly sick and lethargic I decided to try cutting out meat and dairy and it was magical how quickly my body responded. After a month I was hooked, that was 3 years ago. I have no desire to go back to the way I used to eat because I am so blissfully happy with how my body's synergy has improved and how much energy i have now. My diet natural keeps me at a healthy weight and I no longer count calories or freak out when I have a treat. I still eat gluten, but definitely in limited amount and I consider that one of my "treats"

This is a lot of the reason why I started adding food to my blog because I really want everyone to feel as good as I do!!! So cool of you to share your story!! Another reason why you are one of my favorite blogger buddies!!!!!


Sarah said...

This is a really great post, thank you for sharing your journey. I am struggling a bit myself at the moment with an as yet to be diagnosed issue as well as suffering from chronic insomnia for 10 years. I try my best to be healthy and kind to my body and I am always looking at new ways to do this with healthy recipes, breathing, exercise etc it can be a struggle when you do what you can but your body still isn't happy :( Hopefully the journey you are following helps you xx

Kerri said...

i loved this post, marie! :) it's so interesting that so many of us are sort of food/diet/the way we look obsessed... it's hard not to be! have you ever seen the documentary called somethink like "america the beautiful"? it's all about that...

always an interesting topic.

Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe said...

Thank you for sharing your journey, Marie. It's great to hear that you're taking care of your body and finding a routine that makes you feel good about you. Self love is so important to true happiness, and is something that I'm working on too. Alas, often we have to work through some very difficult struggles before we can come out on the other side. Good luck to you, girlfriend!

Cee said...

Oh Marie, there was so much that I identified with in this post - whether that's good or bad I don't know, but I can certainly empathise. I learned to dislike my body at a very, very young age; even when I was training for gymnastics and dance twenty hours a week, I hated what I saw in the mirror. But when my injuries finally forced me to give up gymnastics, and subsequently dance, the problem only became more acute. Like everyone who leaves an active life behind, I gained weight - not a lot, but my bone structure is so small that it was extremely noticeable. Sorting out my feelings about myself and my body has been a process that has taken years, and has been made worse by the fact that chronic injuries {thank-you, childhood in the gym} have left me unable to do anything much more active than walking or yoga without needing to be pumped full of cortisone :P This comment is getting very long, so let me just say, I hear you - this is a journey that we are all on and the more we share and support each other, the easier it is for all of us, so thank-you for putting this out there.

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