Through this three part blog series, I want to be completely transparent for you guys, opening up about the struggles I’ve had with food and the steps I’ve taken to correct my issues. I hope to give you advice along the way and open up the narrow view many people have of those in the health and fitness industry.
Due to my involvement in competitive sports through college, I always focused on eating healthy and clean. I did my best in my college cafeteria, picking and choosing the healthier options where I could. Even when I would go out with teammates after games, I tried to eat the foods that would allow my body to perform at its highest level. However, even with all of this conscious effort, I still suffered from severe bloating. Depending on what I ate I became known as “Buddha Belly”; it quickly became a running joke on my softball team. Alongside this, I had interesting burping problem that still affects me today. Again, depending on what I ate, I would just burp--not so cute when you’re sitting in the middle of a lecture. It was something that I couldn’t help. Eventually, I grew to believe the bloating and burping were normal for my body; others had their own issues, these were mine and I could live with them. What I didn’t realize at the time was that these problems could worsen.
Post-college, I continued life as I had before: clean eating and regular exercise. I was just getting into the fitness industry and developed an interest in the supplements and probiotics that could help my diet. Knowing junk food made my gut feel worse, I did everything I could to consume healthy foods. Yet, my “Buddha belly” continued to make guest appearances when I least wanted it to and my not-so-lady-like burping persisted. Eventually, I began training for a figure competition - this kept me on a pretty strict diet plan and training regimen. Then, immediately after I started training for the Chicago marathon. (Def. not the smartest decision and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.) This put me through a completely different meal plan and workout program. I remember feeling noticeably worse throughout this preparation, but persisted anyway--afterall, I was being healthy! I continued taking my supplements, probiotics, and all the other healthy stuff that you read big-time trainers and fitness gurus taking. I focused on my macros and caloric intake, but still felt vaguely off when it came to my health. From the outside, everything looked fine--I was fit and muscular--but on the inside, I was starting to believe things were not normal.
2012 was when the storm really hit. I was officially self-employed, working to make my dreams come true in Chicago. It was a lot of work, as any entrepreneur would tell you, but suddenly family issues began to crop up. Being thousands of miles from home, my stress levels skyrocketed. This, mixed with the usual stress of starting and running a business, culminated in hives. I broke out all over my chest and arms. It was awful. Looking like I had a blistering sunburn, I turned to my dermatologist and allergist desperate for answers. They ran test after test, but found nothing. I became discouraged, unsure of what to do next. Being in so much pain and discomfort from the hives, I distinctly remember putting leaves of lettuce and fresh aloe on my chest and arms in an attempt to draw some of the heat out and soothe the irritation. I was trying anything; all I knew was that I needed the pain from this episode to go away.
Slowly, this terrible bout of hives disappeared. Unfortunately, it left me highly susceptible to any type of hives afterwards. I could eat something or come into a period of high stress and would notice hives crop up on my neck again. This kept me from living and performing at the level I wanted. Once again, I began going to different doctors, searching for any answers I could get my hands on. Once again, I was disappointed. All I received were prescriptions and topical creams that continued to fail. Eventually, the doctors began pushing me out of their doors telling me they had no answers; there was nothing more they could do. I was in a state of frustration, unsure what to do and convinced something more serious might be wrong.
After the disappointing and aggravating news from western medical doctors, I felt extremely helpless. They were supposed to be the ones with the answers and suddenly they had none; where else was I supposed to turn when something was physically wrong with my body? I continued to take supplements, probiotics, and vitamins, hoping these would help heal my body a little bit. After some more research, I decided to try acupuncture. I knew this ancient form of eastern medicine was supposed to heal an assortment of ailments, so perhaps it could help me too. After a few months of visiting my acupuncturist regularly, I was beginning to notice a reduction in my stress levels. Not only was it helping my stress, but I was also sleeping better than I had in ages. For the first time in a while, I was happy and feeling more like myself again! It was amazing, but I knew I still wasn’t at one hundred percent and needed to find more help.
Check back next Monday to see how my journey continued… Questions and comments welcome.