My health journey: From baby got gas to FIRE!
I’m going to take you back in time, to my younger years, and have you picture this…
I’m 24 years old with a degree in Physical Education & Health from U of T. I decide to take my education and apply it to the real world by becoming a Personal Trainer.
I practice what I preach by eating a ‘healthy diet’ and exercising daily through strength training, cardio, high intensity intervals, and some other fancy stuff.
Looking at me, you would probably think – “This girl has got her $#!% together.”
Now, let me draw the other half of this picture for you…
I’m 24 and struggling with muffin top, along with this general look and feel of ‘puffiness’. I experience major gas and bloating on a regular plus I’m backed up like a malfunctioning septic tank – diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The only thing I look forward to when I get out of bed in the morning, is going back to bed at the end of my day. Although I look young, healthy and in-shape on the outside, I feel like crap on the inside.
Oh, I can’t forget my famous ‘stop, drop and lie on my belly’ move. This was a reaction to the severe gut pain I would experience frequently. My stomach would literally distend to the size of a pregnant woman’s belly and I would experience sharp, intense pain that could last for hours. The only thing that would alleviate the pain was lying on my belly (which made for many awkward moments in my life).
As you can clearly see now, I had some issues.
The thing is, I never thought to dive deeper into these issues back then because they seemed like ‘normal’ things that most people walking through life dealt with. Not to mention, the lack of helpful guidance from the numerous doctors I saw.
So instead, I left my issues on the back burner and moved on with life… until one day I found out that a fire had started and I didn’t even know.
This ‘fire’ I speak of sparked at age 26.
The day is still crystal clear in my mind…I arrived at Princess Margaret Hospital to meet with an Oncology Specialist after having a test done a month earlier.
During this appointment I was told that there were high-grade (precancerous) cells that had formed on my cervix and the probability of the cells clearing without treatment was less than 10%. So, it was highly recommended that I move forward with a procedure that would remove the cells from my cervix.
I remember sitting in an office as a nurse explained the procedure to me, along with all the risks and complications.
As she talked, I could feel my chest tighten, my heart rate increase and water filling my eyes. I felt like I was about to faint and almost did.
As powerful emotions surged through me, I couldn’t help but think…
“How can this be? I’m only 26…I’m supposed to be healthy…It’s my job to be healthy!”
It was in that moment of confusion, fear, disappointment and anger that I encountered my tipping point.
I haven’t shared this part of my life with many people, but it was such a monumental moment that I feel I need to share it with you now.
I had a big decision to make that day. Either I was going to figure out what the heck was going on with my body and how to fix it OR I was going to move forward with ‘treatment’ and keep my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t be sitting in this exact same office years from now dealing with bigger problems.
As I sat there scared out of my mind, unsure of anything, I vowed to myself that I would do whatever it was going to take to heal my body. And that’s exactly what I set out to do.
I dove hard into the research, read book after book, listened to podcast after podcast, and followed some of the most brilliant minds in health and wellness.
I began to apply everything I was learning and slowly started seeing shifts in my health.
The first big and most noticeable change that happened was ALL my IBS symptoms started to fade away.
Can you imagine what it would feel like to wake up one morning, after 25+ years of gas, bloating, constipation and severe stomach pain, and all your pain and discomfort are no longer there?
This one thing alone was enough proof for me to keep on moving forward with what I was doing because I knew something good was happening inside of me. My body was healing.
After one year of applying the wisdom I was gaining, my test results came back showing a shift from high-grade to low-grade abnormal cells on my cervix.
I know it doesn’t sound perfect, but this news was music to my ears considering I was told there was less than a 10% chance of these cells ever shifting back to a less aggressive state. I was clearly beating the odds.
These cells remained low-grade for two years. During this period I ended up with a very serious bacterial infection that literally ate away at my face. This obstacle definitely slowed down my rate of progress.
I was in social isolation for many months trying to get this infection under control. To say this was a challenging time for me would be an understatement. I remember standing in front of the mirror one day bawling my eyes out because I was so embarrassed to show my face to anyone and so frustrated that I had little control over what was happening.
Although my physical energy and morale were in the dumps, I knew I had to be more disciplined now than ever if I was going to pull through this and continue making progress with my health. Sitting on my couch with the pint of Ben & Jerry’s, feeling sorry for myself, wasn’t going to solve my problems. I needed to put in a lot of work, and practice a whole lot of patience while doing so.
Well patience paid off and so did persistence, commitment and that stubborn part of me that refuses to settle for anything less than great.
Within a few months, I was able to clear the bacterial infection, with rest and natural remedies being key players in my recovery, AND…drum roll please…
In 2016 I was discharged from Women’s College Hospital after having consecutive tests showing normal cells on my cervix!
The amazing part about my story is that I set out to stop cancerous cells from developing in my body and in the process of accomplishing that, I ended up giving rise to a whole new me.
I’m now in my early 30s and I feel and look younger, healthier and more alive than I have at ANY point in my life.
I no longer drag myself through days of constipation, gas, bloating, stomach pain and low energy.
Jeans have become my new friends and my old friends – stretchy pants and baggy tops – are now serving their purpose – for yoga and exercise only (OK, and the holidays!).
Not only do I feel healthy on the inside, but I also feel confident and secure about how I look on the outside.
The best part is, I’m not a slave to my health; I don’t have to count calories, dodge fat like it’s out to kill me, quiver at the word ‘carb’, or chain myself to cardio equipment.
You might be wondering how I did it.
The short answer would be — I started by taking one step.
The first step was simple: eat more whole foods and avoid processed and refined garbage (like cereal grains, industrial vegetable and seed oils, sugar and processed soy).
Side note: It turns out that 1 in 3 Americans are gluten intolerant, and that 8 in 10 have the genes that predispose them to developing gluten intolerance. In addition, elevated omega 6 intake (from industrial vegetable and seed oils) is associated with an increase in all inflammatory diseases, including IBS. My diet, up to the age of 26, consisted of many processed and refined foods that I thought were healthy. Little did I know I was dealing with an intolerance to gluten which had caused my gut to become leaky and therefore set off multiple negative reactions in my body.
Along with this shift in eating, my perception of what food is also changed. I no longer see food as just calories that get me through the day. It’s now about nourishing my body with whole foods that provide nutrients to all my hard working cells.
I learned that smoothies are one of the quickest, easiest and most affordable ways to fuel my body with whole food nutrition.
That one small, yet powerful, step made such a big shift in my health that I couldn’t help but crave more. So, I continued to move forward with more simple and healthy lifestyle changes.
As you can see, my journey towards healing my body was not an overnight success and it had some turbulent moments along the way.
Becoming healthy is not a short process for many, especially after years of neglect and abuse. The undoing of damage takes time, persistence, commitment and patience.
I’m constantly learning about my body and making shifts in my lifestyle in order to provide my body with what it needs in each unique moment.
I’ve realized that my journey towards better health will be never-ending and I’m OK with that because it means that I will continue to grow as a student, coach and person. In doing so, I will be able to help more people with their personal struggles.
I’ve learned so much during this time of healing: the power of stress on my body and how to manage it; how sleep and food were my strongest medicines; why I needed to stop intense exercise and start being gentle with my body; and how to detoxify my body through everyday practices.
What I feel all of this means for you…
I waited until there was a ‘fire’ to take action on my health. Looking back, my IBS symptoms should have been enough for me to say – “Something isn’t right and I need to correct it before it leads to bigger issues.”
Chronic pain and discomfort are not ‘normal’ and should not be ‘treated’ with a band-aid approach that masks the problem by dealing with the signs or symptoms solely.
Instead, we need to be addressing the root cause of these problems so we can extinguish the fire right at the source. Not only does this truly treat your existing problem(s), but it also prevents other fires from starting down the road.
Knowing what I know now, the symptoms I experienced most of my life were a sign of deeper problems happening inside of me. They were a sign of an unhealthy gut, inflammation, poor immune function and hormonal dysregulation, just to name a few.
Signs and symptoms are blessings in disguise.
They tell us that something is wrong and we need to correct it. My advice to you is don’t ignore these blessings that have come your way. Take them as a sign that it’s time for you to take action.
I am not telling you or anyone else to ignore what your doctor tells you or refuse treatment for major issues you may be dealing with.
What I am saying is, what you eat can have a huge impact on your health. In many cases, it can heal you so you can live without pain and discomfort. It’s a way that doesn’t require you to rob a bank or take a trip to a remote island or swallow 50 pills a day.
It requires taking a first step.
Whatever your motivation is: to lose weight, increase energy, reduce/eliminate nagging pain or discomfort, sleep better, get fewer colds, feel confident and sexy, it’s your turn and I want to help you!
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I look forward to helping you in one way or another on your journey back to health.