I will start by saying this will not be a post for everyone, but I’ve noticed that gut problems and food intolerances and mental health issues are a growing concern, especially amongst young women.
Life is full of highs and lows, good times, bad and average times, but when you start to feel worse more often than not then you can no longer live in denial. 2016 marked the start of a personal journey I feel like I have been pep talking myself for for years. I have reached the point in my life where I can no longer ignore the fact that an unhappy diet & lifestyle = an unhappy Emily.
Life has become a rollercoaster of highs and massive slumps, not only in my physical well-being and day-to-day performance, but my emotional and mental health too. That’s why I am starting a mini campaign to attempt to rebalance myself, physically and emotionally. This isn’t a sob story, because I’ve sobbed enough on my own time, this is a positive, take control mission.
If this sounds like something that you can relate to (or maybe you’re just intrigued) then you might be interested in my story so far.
Disclosure: some of what I talk about in these posts wont be pretty aka toilet talk, but it’s real.
The preachy bullshit has been shelved. I won’t ever tell anyone to stop drinking and indulging and start living like life Dali Lamma doing a backbend. Sure, there are plenty of positive ideals you can take away from yogi, clean-living gurus, but you know as well as I do that to sustain that type of lifestyle day in and day out is almost impossible.
I have genuinely struggled with gut disorders for years and like many young women ignored the symptoms and indulged whenever I feel like it and “dealing” with the intolerances, nausea, IBS, ulcers, acid reflux, migraines, insomnia, low energy, sore joints, swelling, water weight, rapid weight loss and gain. When I write it all down like that it looks like I am falling apart.
When I was 13 I noticed that eating dairy would trigger the need to go to the bathroom and empty my bowels. I vividly remember being at my first job at 15 and crouching over on the shop floor of Accessorize unable to move because of the excruciating cramps in my tummy and sweating because of the pain and then the embarrassing sudden need to run to the loo. I’d had a bowl of cocoa pops 2 hours earlier for breakfast.
Years later at uni and the discovery of alcohol meant that I was maintaining an enviably slim physique because I would be on the toilet half the day after one of my bi-weekly alcohol binges. Everything went straight through me and I looked uhhmazing. Friends marvelled at how I could put away the fattiest meals, eat 2nds and 3rds and a string of McDonalds and not put on an ounce. In fact, I was getting thinner. I thought, lucky me, I can eat and drink what I want and stay thin forever, which is totally worth the sudden need to run to the toilet every so often. I was wrong and the condition was not as manageable as I thought.
Being at university isn’t a real reflection of life. I spent 4 hours a week in lectures the rest divided between being on my bed on Facebook (pre insta days) and being out and having fun with friends. My energy levels continued to drop, my anxiety problems started, social situations became so much effort. I was staying in my bed more only to be tempted out with the thought of shots and partying to take the edge off and give me energy. Making out with boys in clubs, smoking and drinking when you have a weakened immune system because you can’t keep any nutrients in your body means you are more likely to get ill. I got ill a lot. Being ill led to being on antibiotics again and again, which irritates the gut, which results in ulcer pains so bad I couldn’t eat for two weeks. I did recover and then went straight back to the partying. Idiot.
After graduating I got a job in marketing and events, which was a lucky break because the recession was on and most grads were unemployed. The reality of having a job means you’re desk bound. Instead of waking at midday and eating a bunch of crap followed by a drinking sesh, I was now 3-meals-a-day and eating out of boredom. I started to put on weight for the first time in my life. That’s when my gut and bowels changed. I was still suffering with random bouts of diarrhea (mostly anxiety triggered) but flitting between not being able to go either. Without all the extra sleep I’d had before my energy levels were continuing to drop. Still indulging in fatty, sugar laden and spicy food, drinking to excess meant I started to put on weight and started to notice the swelling problem I still have now. Eating crap food breeds more crappy food cravings. The swelling was my bodies way of saying HELL NO.
Where am I now?
I’ve now been in the working world for 4 years and you could say my symptoms have stabilised, which would make you think it was more manageable, but just because something is more predictable doesn’t means the quality of life is there. What bothers me most out of that list above ? I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t bother me that sometimes I look 10lbs heavier than I actually am because I’ve eating something that doesn’t agree with me and now my clothes don’t fit. Also, why do I look 7 months pregnant after every meal? Although my skin is better now I have a skincare line up that really works for me, if I over indulge in sugar (more on this later) then I get dry red patches on my face and flaky scalp. Ew. These are all superficial, vanity complaints. What really bothers me is the low energy, the rollercoaster of anxiety triggered by my unhappy gut and the negative thoughts.
I’ve now accepted that there is such a strong bond between gut health, diet and the way people are emotionally affected. Although still a relatively new concept/theory I have found that the link between gut and mental health is a strong one for me. If I feel anxious or hyper then my gut reacts accordingly. If I eat the wrong things, I feel depressed and have low mood and energy. Round and round the cycle goes. The brain and gut are both huge organs and it makes sense that they work together whether in or out of sync. Although there is no magic pill to realign them (I’ve popped them all) there are methods and changes I can make to improve the relationship and re-balance myself.
Some people can eat whatever, exercise zilch and they function like a well oiled machine, but part of growing up and helping yourself is admitting that no 2 bodies are the same. I need to help myself to help myself.
In the following #RebalancingMyself blog posts I am going to address a lot of my health problems that are a result of neglect. I am also going try, try being the operative word, to talk about other lifestyle changes I want to make like removing negativity and toxic relationships from my life.
I am going to try super hard to make positive changes in my life so I can break the depressing cycle of feeling like crap A LOT of the time. It’s going to be hard and I might not be successful, or maybe it just wont work but I am going to give it my best go. And don’t shout at me if you see me having a glass of wine or two because this was never about punishing myself into good health/shape. I want to enjoy my life and make my new lifestyle a sustainable one.
And with all that said, here we go!