Well folks, here we are. 1 year and 4 months since I started my elimination diet. And finally, FINALLY, there is an end in sight. I'...
Why I Will Never Diet Again
Well folks, here we are. 1 year and 4 months since I started my elimination diet. And finally, FINALLY, there is an end in sight. I've been on a very rough ride through a lot of this past year, but the past couple months were just the cherry on top of a that mound of shit of a year. To sum it up quick for you, it got to the point where it didn't matter what I ate, I was still getting sick. I'll spare you the details and just say it's basically felt like I've had a stomach flu almost every month this past year.
When you're sick while on a mostly plant-based diet, it's hard to believe any illness is still diet related. And being sick so much, and frustrated that I couldn't figure it out, was understandably stressing me out. This made all the normal stress in life, family, work, etc., seem so much worse than it was. I had a hard time focusing, on anything, let alone being mindful. I avoided most social events since I was depressed and unable to eat much. I had zero energy. I felt myself slipping into a pit of despair. I started to feel that old, familiar, soul-sucking bitch called anorexia rear its emaciated head.
Asking a recovered anorexic to diet is like asking a recovered drug addict to do their drug of choice again. It's not right, it's not fair, and it's not healthy. I believed myself to be beyond this, beyond temptation, beyond "in recovery" to fully recovered. I didn't think I was capable of being anorexic again. And I'm not. Orthorexic is probably the correct term now. But it doesn't matter what you call it (because fuck labels). It's the mindset that only certain food is safe to eat. And only small amounts. And pain and chaos ensue if the rules are broken. Unfortunately for me right now, pain does ensue when the rules are broken. But how much of that is from the food itself, and how much of that is from my mind?
You can't argue with the power of your mind over your body. If you don't believe me, think about the last time you got really nervous or upset. How did your body feel? Did you get a stomachache? Headache? For most of us anyways, physical symptoms usually come with mental or emotional imbalance. And if you're already struggling with physical symptoms, it becomes near impossible to distinguish what is causing what anymore. Does my stomach hurt because I'm stressed out or because of what I ate? How can I tell? How can a doctor tell?
I can't. But a doctor can at least run some tests. So that's what I had them do. I wasn't expecting them to find anything. I was expecting everything to come back normal. And the quite large panel of blood tests all did come back normal. Amazing how I can look perfectly healthy on paper but feel so awful! Thankfully my naturopath is knowledgeable about things out of the norm to test for, which is what he did. He tested me for something that explains every single one of my symptoms. It's called SIBO- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. Sounds gross until you remember that we are supposed to have bacteria in our intestines. Sometimes they get out of balance or sometimes bacteria that shouldn't be there get stuck there. Lots of different things can cause it, from food poisoning to physical abnormalities in your intestines. And of course, stress always make everything in your gut worse.
So was the elimination diet all a waste of time? Did it make this worse? Don't think I can ever know for sure, but my suspicion is that this likely started from either food poisoning (as I've had those types of symptoms more times than I can count in my life), or the several rounds of antibiotics I had to take after having Oscar. And then the stress from this prolonged dieting probably made it worse.
So what's next? An herbal antibiotic to kill the bugs, enzymes, and a med to boost my immune system and get my gut working normally again. It may take a few months to feel all better. Then I'll re-take the SIBO test to make sure it's all gone. But the great news is I'm likely not sensitive to the large list of foods I've been avoiding. Once I'm all better, I'll probably be able to reintroduce all or most things. I'm trying not to get my hopes up too high, just in case it takes longer to heal, or comes back (the recurrence rate is high), or I end up still having food intolerances to worry about. But I am optimistic and relieved that it wasn't all just in my head.
Over a week ago, before I had any test results and was expecting the doctors to just tell me I'm crazy, I was feeling pretty fucking low. Brian was being his usual awesome self and trying to comfort me. I asked him what he thought I should do to feel better. His reply:
"Do whatever makes you feel alive and aligned with the person you know yourself to be." (Seriously, he said those words. It's like living with the Dalai Lama.)
So I went for a walk. I did some yoga. And then I sat down and started writing this post. Because who am I? I am not a depressed anorexic. I am a happy person. A healthy person. A good human being. And there's no reason I need to feel so terrible and depressed about this difficult place I'm in. I didn't mean to fall into this pit of despair. I meant to make my body feel better, healthier. I had no intention of tempting my anorexia out of recovery to mess with my head. But unfortunately that is what happened. I realize that now, and that means, I know how to fix it. Because I've done this before. Over and over again throughout the years. Recovery is one thing I know very well.
When we're upset, it's normal to have thoughts like "Why is this happening to me?!" I always want a logical explanation for things in life. Even though so much of life isn't logical. But if we look hard, we can often find that silver lining, that good thing that came from the bad and the suffering. I think mine is happening so that I can truly understand every aspect of eating disorders. I thought I already knew all there was to know. But this experience has given me so much more insight into how this can happen from good intentions, possibly from medical conditions, and not solely from psychological issues. And now I understand how important it is for me to have as few rules as possible around food and dieting.
Once I'm fully recovered again, maybe I'll finally have the confidence and knowledge to do what I've always wanted to do with these terrible eating disorder experiences. Write my whole story. Get it out of my head and body. Maybe I can help those that are still suffering. And maybe I finally will.
About author: Melanie
Mother, wife, web developer, writer. I blog about my life as an anorexia survivor, depression battler, being a mother to 2 boys, 1 with NF1, living healthy, and much more!