My Battle With Orthorexia: Epiphanies and Recovery

Since my initial post on My Battle With Orthorexia last month,  I've had quite a few epiphanies and breakthroughs that I would like to share with you. I will warn you now that this post will be a bit stream of conscious as I attempt to explain things. 
 

Thank you sweet sister of mine for sharing this one with me

Thank you sweet sister of mine for sharing this one with me

Allow me to first start off by saying, that this is not an easy battle. I've had highs, lows and everything in-between with a few 'relapses' in thoughts and behaviors along the way. What one must recognize about an eating disorder, whether they are personally struggling with one or know someone that is, is that it is NOT about food. 

I know, right?

Just as an alcoholic uses and abuses alcohol as a coping mechanism, a person with an eating disorder uses food whether it be overeating, under-eating/restricting, and/or obsessing as a coping mechanism for circumstances and emotions things that are occurring or have occurred in their lives. The actual reasons behind the need for a coping mechanism will naturally vary from person-to-person. 

This disorder is powerful and strong. And it can indeed, kill you. Recovery from an eating disorder has one of the highest chances for relapse (or lowest recovery rate depending on how you look it) out of many other disorders/diseases and the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. Why is this so?

I have a theory on one of the reasons why this may be true... 

We cannot live without food. We all know this. An eating disorder is a type of an addiction. And when you are in the thick of any addiction whether it be mental (obsessive/compulsive) or physical (substance abuse etc.), you are in fact, under the influence.  

Imagine if you will, that for an alcoholic to 'recover' they had to learn how to drink 'normally.' Not quit drinking entirelyThey had to stop their drinking in excess yet still frequent bars and only have a drink or two. And go to liquor stores on a regular basis but get a couple of beers instead of a bottle of whiskey and a case of beer. 

Now, I am NOT saying that recovering from alcoholism is not a feat. Wow, it is an enormous life-altering feat! Though it may explain why recovery rates for those with eating disorders are not as promising. Those of us that have found ourselves battling an eating disorder, are surrounded by food all of the time, from culture-to-culture, day-in-day-out, and we must learn how to eat 'normally' again. 

My Demon, my Friend

My Demon, my Friend

I've named my eating disorder, 'my eating disorder Demon.' But don't get me wrong. This Demon has actually protected me in many ways, has been there for me and provided me comfort throughout a very difficult time. So while I am actively battling this Demon, I am honoring it at the same time. And understand that it served a purpose.

I lovingly release and honor the past and joyously welcome the new.

The past is our past but that's just it, it's OUR past. We lived it. We made it through. We learned from it. And we should love it. Honor it. And be at peace with it. Whatever 'it' may be.

I spent a lot of time and energy pushing my past away. The "I've got this," "I'm fine," "Don't worry about me," "I'm tough," "I'm past that," "It could have been worse," "I don't need help, I don't need you, I don't need anyone..."

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The reality, is that with a BMI of about 16.5, I was not only classified as underweight, but severely underweight. Now, I am grateful that this had not gone on for years, but it did go on long enough to where the consequences of being at such a low BMI effected me. And the consequences are not only physical but mental as well. I won't delve deep into that topic but the mental implications can also be vast; such as the inability to focus and extreme obsessive compulsive behaviors. You are indeed, under the influence

So, I came upon some epiphanies over the past week.

Epiphany #1: Control

Life.

Life happens. And for the most part, the majority of things in our lives, are out of our control. And generally, that is OK. Expected. And accepted. But, there are those times that things go completely awry. And then there or those times when go not only awry, but devastated by trauma. 

When an event takes place that derails you life to the point where you feel out of control, you latch on to things that make you feel in control.

I am writing this using 'you,' but I am in fact, talking about myself.

Back in fall of 2010, I had series of life events that left me feeling dis-empowered, helpless and completely out of control. I latched onto three main things that enabled me to feel in control. Hence the word feel, in the end, these things controlled me. I didn't actually have control. 

Sources of 'False Control'

    1) Exercise

    For all of my adult life, I've found great joy in exercise. Whether it be walking, hiking, jogging, lifting, yoga etc., it is, and will remain to be one my favorite things in life.

    Though, I started to use exercise in such a way that it actually stressed my body in times where I truly needed emotional support and rest. I exercised/worked-out twice a day 6-7 days a week for over two years. Even when I was sick. When I was tired. Exhausted. Stressed. In pain. And even shortly after my surgeries. It wasn't a release anymore - it was an addiction. An obsession. But it made me feel in control. Little did I know, it was in fact, controlling me.

    This mind you, happened gradually over a long period of time. And I have since then, toned the exercising down to allow my body to heal during this process. Which in-and-of-itself, has been difficult to let go and give myself and my body permission to rest. 
      
    2) Food/restriction/elimination diets

    I latched onto the idea that there was a 'perfect' diet out there for me in order to feel my best. I've been writing several posts on this so I won't go into great detail but in essence, I used restriction around ingredients and specific food groups as a way to feel more in control over my life. It was something that I could research, tweak, see, and feel results.

    Over the past month, I have slowly introduced specific foods that I had eliminated back into my diet. Some worked (grains such as white rice and corn, added sugar, added starches). Some did not. Gluten, did not. For the same reasons that I initially stopped eating gluten (vertigo, exhaustion, stomach rashes etc). Dairy, did not. And for the same reasons that I had initially stopped eating dairy over four years ago now (heartburn/indigestion, diarrhea).

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    This is how I feel about the gluten and dairy. 

    Most importantly, I branched out. I gave myself permission to eat things that I had not eaten in a long time, even years. And it was scary, but I am also very proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone and I will continue to do so. It's a process. 

    3) Medicine/Doctors

      Similar to my diet, I felt that there was something in my body that needed 'fixed.' Something was wrong. What I failed to recognize, was that the something that was wrong was actually an internal cry for emotional help and support. The something that needed fixed, was on an emotional and spiritual level yet I stayed with the mindset for years that it was on a physical level. Yes, I did in fact have hernias. And I did in fact, have Endometriosis but those were not the sole source of my physical pain and symptoms. Not by a long shot.

      Countless visits to doctors, tests, procedures, herbs, medicines, supplements, and thousands of dollars. It's no wonder that my body was unable to recover and reset back to a state of 'normalcy' as it was constantly bombarded by things that it didn't need or couldn't absorb/breakdown as I was becoming malnourished due to lack of nourishment on both a diet and emotional level. As my nutritionist explains nourishment, there are two types: Nourishment with a capital (N) for food nourishment and nourishment with a lower case (n) for emotional/loving nourishment. 

      This fixation on 'fixing' something on a physical level also brought to me a false sense of control. 

      Epiphany #2: Fight or Flight

      Do you know what physically happens to animal (including humans) when they are in 'fight or flight' mode?

      Well, let me tell you, it's quite fascinating. Here is a website that explains the fight or flight response in more detail. Below are some highlights:

      • heart rate and blood pressure increase
      • pupils dilate to take in as much light as possible
      • veins in skin constrict to send more blood to major muscle groups (responsible for the "chill" sometimes associated with fear -- less blood in the skin to keep it warm)
      • blood-glucose level increases
      • muscles tense up, energized by adrenaline and glucose (responsible for goose bumps -- when tiny muscles attached to each hair on surface of skin tense up, the hairs are forced upright, pulling skin with them)
      • smooth muscle relaxes in order to allow more oxygen into the lungs
      • nonessential systems (like digestion and immune system) shut down to allow more energy for emergency functions
      • trouble focusing on small tasks (brain is directed to focus only on big picture in order to determine where threat is coming from)

      I can't even begin to tell you how much this resonates with with me. Bullet-by-bullet I nod my head. Yep, experienced that. Yep, experienced that. Dilated pupils, veins in the skin constricted, increased heart rate, low body temperature, trouble focusing... Though, I'd like to especially point the one on digestion and immune system shutting down to allow more energy for emergency functions. Wow, did it ever. Chronic diarrhea and various other immune related symptoms is the main thing that plagued me during this time.

      Bottom line, my body quit functioning properly. 

      To an outsider looking in, I had it pretty together. Living alone, working a full-time job, eating 'healthy' foods, exercising, and generally walking around with a smile on my face. But on the inside, I was full of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the relationships that I was in and those that I had left. Fear of what could happen. And most of all, fear of what had already happened that I continuously ran from facing. 

      You see, for years, I was in a chronic state of 'fight or flight.' Why?' you may ask. I didn't feel safe. Simple as that. My sense of safety and security had completely deteriorated. I began to think about this 'fight or flight' situation combined with my lack of feeling safe and secure and as it really soaked in, I reflected back on the times over the past few years that I did feel safe. 

      I can count them on one hand. And all but one of those times were when I was with my Dad. It didn't matter where I was with him. But when I was with him whether it be on vacation or one of his homes, I was generally symptom free irregardless of what I was eating or drinking. I felt safe. My systems relaxed. There was one other time that I can recall and this was when I went on vacation by myself to Bar Harbor, ME (where I am now moving BTW, post to follow). I stayed at a Bed & Breakfast for seven days, right on the ocean, took myself out for meals, ate things I normally wouldn't have and indulged in more wine than I normally would have and I felt great. And was again, generally symptom free. There it is again. My flight or fight response subsided and I felt safe. I allowed myself to relax. To be

      Now, this doesn't mean that I need my dad wherever I go (although that would be kind of cool because he's pretty amazing), but what it does mean, is that I need a balanced life on an emotional, spiritual, and physical level in order to establish a sense of safety, security and peace. 

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      I don't have a step-by-step guide on how I will do this, but I am getting there. By loving myself, by trusting myself, listening to my body, forgiving myself and forgiving others. I could go on and on, but those are some of the things that I am currently focusing on to help me in breaking free from 'fight or flight.' Here is another great site on fight or flight. 

      Epiphany #3: Deprivation

      Someone asked me not too long ago, not "What do you do for fun?" but rather, "When do you have fun?"

      I just looked at him blankly. There was really no answer that I had for him. I pondered this for a bit and came to the conclusion that the only time I really did have 'fun' was on the rare occasion that I was around my family or when I was alone hiking, writing or traveling. Alone. Mind you, I do rather enjoy being alone, but it had gotten to the point of isolation. Depriving myself.

      In learning more and more about restrictive eating disorders such as orthorexia, it's very common and almost always the case that the person also restricts (deprives) their lives in other ways.

      Why? To feel in control. Safe. Secure. 

      Like waves crashing in, there was a steady flow of realizations that hit me of other ways in my life that I deprived myself. Laughter, fun, socializing, love, indulgences such as alcohol, rest/relaxation, sleep... I started to write them all down and suddenly my life started to make a little more sense to me. Things became a bit more clear.

      Allowing myself to let go and release has been an invigorating experience. There has been fear, no doubt, but it's getting easier. And it makes me smile.

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      As I am writing this, Sting's 'Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot,' just came on. How very fitting. I think I'll be listening to this song often ;)

      Aids in my Recovery Process

      Professional Guidance

      I've been seeing both a nutritionist and therapist that work solely with those recovering from eating disorders. They have both helped me immensely in getting to the why behind my eating disorder,  learning how to be gentle with myself, forgive myself, putting things into perspective, understanding what it takes to truly fuel and nourish the human body and much, much more. 


      Recovery Stories

      I am especially fond of this one

      Affirmations

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      Books

      Eating In the Light of the Moon has been my favorite thus far. I recommend every female read this book whether they are struggling with an eating disorder or not. I also recommend that those supporting someone with an eating disorder read it to better understand their condition.

      Louise Hay and Crystal Alandrus' inspirational books (and audio recordings) have been a huge part of my recovery and although I have not met them in person- I feel like they are part of my life. You Can Heal Your Life, is another one of my favorites. 

      Others I am reading: The Passion TestThe Power of Myth and Healing From Trauma

      I adore books ;)

      Meditation, Yoga & Metaphysical Work

      Meditation, yoga and metaphysical work really could be an entire new post (as all of these could be). So rather than going in deep on this topic, I will simply let you know that all of these combined have not only helped me in my life path and recovery but have been part of a life transformation on a body, mind and spiritual level. 

      'Lifelines'
       

      When I am struggling with a relapse in behavior or struggling with my Demon in thoughts, I text, email or call one of my friends, my mom or my sister (if I am not actually with them). In other words, I TALK about it. I voice it. The support system that I have is truly a gift.

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      And with that, I will end this post and say thank you again to those that have helped me along the way and continue to support me. How very blessed I am to have you in my life.

      With Love, 

      -AEB

      My Battle with Orthorexia

      This is the most difficult post that I have written. In fact, it is one of the most difficult things that have ever written, period. 

      Has anyone ever told you that you are 'too close to the situation'? I had quite a few people in my life tell me this throughout the past couple of years. I thought: "Nah... look at all of this research I do. Look at all of this information I have found. Look at all the progress I have made. Look at all of these people that have healed themselves this way. Look at all of this groundbreaking literature to back it up. Look at all of this HEALTHY stuff I buy!"  

      Since 2010 I have been on an endless search to heal various physical ailments through food elimination and diets. In doing so, I became acutely aware of all the nasty things that get put into packaged and processed foods, the dangers of this food and that food and benefits of this food and that food. And countless diets. Paleo, Primal, Raw, Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Anti-inflammatory, Macrobiotic... seeking that perfect combination that would allow me to feel my best. Be the healthiest. The cleanest. The Purest.

      During this same time, I continued to suffer from gastrointestinal issues (chronic diarrhea and bloating). So, in my mind, there was still something wrong. There was still something to fix.

      The search consumed me.

      The search consumed me.

      What I have is called, Orthorexia. It is much different than Anorexia though it can have similar side effects. While anorexia typically has a fixation of weight, orthorexia is a fixation on eating healthy. They do overlap. And I believe my struggle with orthorexia, obsession with healthy eating and having a clean body also morphed into anorexia. 

      "Orthorexia' is defined as an obsession with 'healthy or righteous eating'. The phrase was first created in 1997 by California doctor Steven Bratman, and refers to people who create severely limited diets in the name of healthy eating. It often begins with someone's simple and genuine desire to live a healthy lifestyle. The person may choose to stop eating red meat, but eventually cuts out all meat; then all processed foods, and will eventually eat only specific foods that are prepared in very specific ways.

      As with all eating disorders, the core issue is not about food. My struggle began at a time in my life when I was dealing with massive emotional stress.  In the fall of 2010 I was sexually assaulted and during that same time, had recently left a relationship and entered into another unhealthy relationship (both unrelated to the assault) quickly after. With my life in disarray, and my emotions crying for help, food was something that I could control. 

      Or so I thought.

      Note: This post is on MY battle. I do not believe that everyone on a restrictive diet has orthorexia.  Though, this post may raise awareness that 'diets' can become an obsession. And can be a 'gateway.' Most of all... listen to your BODY. Always.

      It was a slow progression. For much of 2011 I was 'tweaking' if you will, still maintaining a pretty 'healthy' diet and body weight but experimenting with elimination diets. And in 2012, I tweaked a bit more and become increasingly strict with what I allowed into my body. Following my hernia surgery in December of 2012, I became even more fixated on eating healthy, weighing in at 94 pounds at my doctor's appointment just a few weeks ago. 

      And then I got sick. Twice. And weighed 'who-knows-what' and then I landed myself in the ER with severe abdominal pain. This pain that I was feeling was on the surface, not dangerous. But the underlying cause - in sum, was that my body just did not have the reserves to sustain me while being sick nor did it have the strength to recover 'like a normal person.' 

      A healthy body is a guest-chamber for the soul; a sick body is a prison.
      — Francis Bacon – an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist and author
       

      No doctor has ever told me that I should not eat the foods that I have eliminated from my diet. I truly believed that I was doing the best and healthiest thing for my body. I eliminated entire food groups. No processed foods, no packaged foods aside from bars and sweet potato chips, no refined sugar, no corn, no beans, no grains at all except for oats and brown rice (so no gluten, millet, spelt etc), no yeast, no soy, no dairy, and very limited other starches.

      The consequences to this type of restrictive eating are massive.

      The side-effects listed below are side-effects that I experienced. These are not researched and therefore I do not know if they apply to others with orthorexia/restrictive dieting. 

      Physical Side-Effects:

      • Insufficient nutrients/ malnourished
      • Insufficient calories
      • Dangerous weight-loss / unhealthy BMI
      • Decrease in energy 
      • Dangerously low blood pressure
      • Insomnia
      • Hormone inbalance
      • Loss of appetite

      Emotional Side-Effects:

      • Anxiety 
      • Obsessive-Compulsive behavior (measuring food, listing out meals, only eating at certain times)
      • Fear (of food/ingredients)
      • Depression
      The spirit cannot endure the body when overfed, but, if underfed, the body cannot endure the spirit.
      — St Frances de Sales

      There were many signs along the way that I chose to not recognize. For every sign, I had an answer. A rather good one, at that. 

      I had one woman I didn't even know straight up ask me: 'Do you eat?' I thought it was the rudest thing I had ever heard. And perhaps it was rude. But maybe it needed to be said.

      During this time, I was cooking, baking, blogging about food and my love of food, helping to guide others in their path to a healthy lifestyle and so the thought that I could have a problem was downright absurd to me. Ha! 

      I would NEVER EVER advise someone else to do the things that I was doing. I re-read what is on my website after acknowledging that I have a problem and thought "Wow, I'm pretty dang intelligent. Why didn't I just listen to myself?" 

      Simply put, I got caught up in my passion. As a friend stated to me: "You know, people take great pride getting taken by their passion. You simply did that."

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      I was being dishonest with myself. But most of all, I was not loving myself. I was not nurturing myself and I was not accepting myself. I was loving and accepting myself in ONE condition. I was not loving and accepting myself through thick and thin (pun intended). 

      Although, I was doing all of these wonderful things like reading several different self-help books, doing affirmations, connecting with my spirituality and becoming very aware of myself and my surroundings, I was not recognizing the thing that I needed to face the most.

      I hit bottom.

      Hard.  

      Through all of the deaths, break-ups, moves, sicknesses, and surgeries, this struggle, right here, right now, is by the far the hardest that I have fought. And I am honored and humbled to be able to share my experience.

      And the work begins...

      Some books that I purchased to help me in this journey.

      Some books that I purchased to help me in this journey.

      An eating disorder can be a dead end or a door opening to a life better than you can imagine.
      — Carolyn Jennings

      This Wednesday, I start an outpatient program and will be seeing both a nutritionist and psychologist. I am excited for this journey to begin!

      Rest assured, I am still very much in love with food, cooking, baking and all that it has to offer. I cannot predict how this will unfold, but I can tell you this: 

      My posts will change slightly and my recipes will evolve but I will be here. Learning, pushing forward and sharing my experiences.

      And I have an incredible support system. My family and friends have embraced me with loving arms and for that I am immensely grateful. Thank you.

      With love,

      -AEB 

      Listening to your Gut, Mind & Soul

      Allow me to tell you a little story.

      Over the past two years I have had an intimate relationship with food and yes, at times, a love-hate-relationship with food. Why you ask? In fall of 2010, in the midst of a significantly trying time in my life, I began to experience sudden and intense pain. This initially started as pelvic pain and continued to progress into something that I have now only come to describe as a true conundrum. From pelvic pain, abdominal pain and chronic gastrointestinal issues to joint pain, fatigue, nausea, loss of sleep, weight-loss and nerve pain. That type of pain, combined with emotional distress is downright taxing.

      Let me step back for a moment to address a question that may be lurking in the back of your mind. Prior to this, I was easy breezy when it came to health. I rarely got sick, had a pretty rock solid stomach aside from occasional heartburn when I had too much dairy and I maintained a consistent healthy weight and body-mass-index (BMI) for much of my late teens and early 20s. I ate what I considered a well-balanced diet (which did include gluten, some dairy, yeast, soy), indulged in pastries and candy every now-and-then and exercised regularly.

      So now I'll jump to fall of 2010, when the flow of my atypical symptoms began.

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      Ashley, meet Google.

      I had diagnosed myself with numerous conditions including Leukemia, HIV, Ovarian Cancer and Lupus to name a few. 

      Mind you, those are all seriously tough diagnosis and while I should have been jumping for joy when I was relieved of those concerns, I slumped into a deeper state of chronic worry. As you could imagine,  emotional distress is the arch nemesis to physical pain and vise-versa.

      I was loosely diagnosed with various conditions including Endometriosis, Interstitial cystitis and of course... neurophysological. Neurophysological came with a complex explanation that in summary, the theory was that my nerves were not firing properly and causing both direct and indirect pain. Hm. OK, I could accept that to a certain point. But I couldn't accept that explanation was the end-all-be-all.  

      So I dug. I dug and researched. And searched. Most importantly, I searched within myself. I knew that there was something more. So much more. When I laid my head down on my pillow at night and felt my body lie there, I felt what I describe as a heaviness. A pulling. I knew that sensation shouldn't be ignored.

      I had this 'gnawing' feeling that what was causing my physical pain was a hernia. I can't quite explain this definitive knowing. All I can say, is that I just new. The thought that it could be a hernia never escaped me and over the years a found several compelling articles that resonated with me.

      Hernias in women  often go undiagnosed because they are not only seen as a 'man' issue but they also tend to present themselves differently.  

      When a woman lies flat on the examining table, the signs and symptoms of a hernia disappear. And the usual exam, an ultrasound, rarely reveals the real problem. Lacking an accurate diagnosis, doctors often send patients to be drugged up by pain specialists and psychiatrists. 

      For many women with these occult, or hidden, hernias, it can take years, if ever, to get the right diagnosis and correct the problem. Women account for only 8 percent of the hernias diagnosed, and doctors simply ‘don’t think hernia’ when women complain of pelvic pain.
      — Dr. Metzger

      A New York Times article, In Women, Hernias May be a Hidden Source of Agony, was the first one that I came upon. I read it and I grew even more certain that this was what was causing the majority of my pain.

      Below are some other articles that I kept with me though the years and showed to various doctors:

      As the cliche goes, 'desperate times call for desperate measures.' I had tried every elimination diet that I had researched. Various herbs, medications, supplements, meditation and other self-help techniques. Not to mention thousands of dollars in medical bills and countless tests, procedures, doctor visits, time off of work and I was still symptomatic.

      While it's nice to have tests that come back 'normal,' there comes a point where you just want to hear someone say "Aha! We found it! You actually have ____ and that is what is causing your symptoms!" When that time doesn't come, you will do virtually anything to figure it out on your own.

      At least, I did.

      To me, the only route I saw in relieving symptoms was through food. Based on the triggers that I did find, my diet was already largely paleo/primal (no grains, no legumes, no unnatural sugar, limited carbohydrates), so the next step in my mind was to be even more strict with my sugar intake. I had a couple theories around this, one being that I may have an excess of fructose in the gut. It was just one more thing to rule out (in my mind).

      Words of caution: Playing doctor on yourself is risky business.

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      So, two years after the onset of my symptoms, in September (2012), I decided to take up the challenge of the 21-Day Sugar Detox. I had high hopes that this would provide some answers. When people hear 'sugar detox,' they tend to think refined sugars, candy, soda etc. Well, I had already cut all of that out long ago. Since I had also already removed grains, legumes, dairy, and unnatural sugars from my diet, the next step and guidelines for the 21-Day Sugar Detox was to remove other sources of carbohydrates (all carbohydrates break down to sugar) so this meant all fruit (fresh, dried or juices) with the exception of one green-tipped banana a day or one green apple. In addition, starchy vegetables were to be removed (so winter squash, sweet potatoes, white potatoes) and alcohol. That my friends, is low-carb.

      How low-carb is too low-carb?

      Do some people need more carbs than others? Is it safe to take up a low-carb diet? And what can going low-carb do to your body?

      Fist and foremost, each meal, snack and trip to the grocery store took that much more planning, that much more research and that much more thought. I recall going out to eat one night while doing the detox. I felt so incredibly hungry before-hand that I ordered a huge burger (sans bun) some mushrooms and vegetables on the side - mind you it originally came with much more including a bun, fries and a chutney. In communicating with my server, I said something along the lines of "Ok, so as long as there are no grains (so, no gluten), dairy, soy, yeast or any sugar then that will be good..."

      What?!? Not only did saying that cause me feel like I belonged in the looney bin, I didn't feel like I was being true to myself. We need to eat what makes our bodies feel good (I'll reiterate here, our bodies, not necessarily what our brain or taste buds are telling us makes us feel good ;)), not what a template, website, book or guide says will make us feel good. I was shocked by the words that were coming out of my mouth. And I had gone completely against my own advice that I would coach others.

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      At day 13 of the 21-Day Sugar Detox, I made a critical decision to stop. In short, I simply couldn't function. My bouts of hypoglyecemia became extreme despite the amount of food that I was eating to compensate for what wasn't (mainly protein and vegetables), my energy level was non-existent, my weight was dropping too an unhealthy low and I ultimately decided that to continue the duration of the detox could be very dangerous.

      So what was next? I was concerned about eating too much sugar too soon so I started rather slowly, adding in fruit little by little. Then starchy vegetables/squashes, then I added in oats and brown rice in very small amounts (this was the first time I had any grains for about 6 months) and then finally limited amounts alcohol (wine or Ciroc vodka) here and there.

      I continued to add everything back into my daily diet, with the main reason for the starchy vegetables, oats and brown rice, aside from energy was so that I would stop losing weight and in addition, try to gain some. I had hit the lowest weight in my adult life and not only did I feel uncomfortably thin, friends, co-workers and family expressed concern. Note, I am writing that in past tense though I am still very much in the middle of this path in which you will learn more about shortly.

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      And then... things got weird...The 'brain-fog' that I once experienced when I ate gluten, came back with vengeance though I was not consuming any gluten. I became dizzy at unexplainable times and would 'get the shakes,' similar to when I'm hungry except it would occur shortly after eating or when I was not hungry. And my body seemed unable to process alcohol.

      I nearly passed out at my sisters after dinner and two glasses of wine (in the span of about 2 hours). I wasn't hungry at all but I was shaking, hot, dizzy etc. and had to eat a bowl of sweet potatoes to recover. That convinced me my body was just not processing alcohol (i.e. sugar) or carbohydrates (also broken down as sugar) properly.

      After banning myself from the infamous search engine, I was yet again sucked into the Google. Because what makes any all symptoms worse? Stress. Worry. Anxiety. And with that carries a heavy weight of desperation.

      My Keto theory...

      My theory is that I unintentionally put myself in a ketosis state. Ketosis is a metabolic state that occurs when your body is not getting enough carbohydrates and sugar and thus your body instead of burning carbohydrates for fuel starts to burn fat and produces a large amount of ketones. Ketones are present in the blood and in the urine. When there are a large amount or too many ketones for your body, a slew of unpleasant and troubling symptoms can occur.

      When the ketones are elevated or you are in a ketosis state (a.k.a non-diabetic ketoacidosis), your body can experience (list not exhaustive): 

      • Excessive thirst (check)
      • Increased urination (check)
      • Fruity or metallic taste in mouth (check)
      • General weakness (check)
      • Loss of appetite (check)
      • Abdominal pain (check)
      • Confusion/brain fog (check)
      • Low blood pressure (check)

      Because I was exhibiting many of the those symptoms, they tested me for diabetes which was negative.

      So, am I 100% certain that this is what happened? No. Am I by definition, a hypochondriac? Perhaps. Though, I'm of the opinion that when someone is in chronic pain without answers, they will go to dire means to seek answers. Is my theory on ketosis just a 'hypochondriatic' conjecture? I don't think so ;) 

      But I do know, that while some people can safely go 'low-carb,' for a time most people cannot or should not for a long period of time. 

      One thing I know for certain, always consult with a physician before making any significant dietary changes. 

      Meanwhile, I had gone back to a trusted doctor, and opted to have an exploratory laparoscopic surgery. He had actually been one of the doctors that was open to the thought that a hernia may be a viable explanation. I knew in my gut, pun intended, that a hernia had been causing my agony for the past two years.

      This surgery was performed last month (November 2012). Some endometriosis adhesions were removed, so that theory wasn't invalidated but it wasn't the cause of my pain. During the surgery, two inguinal hernias were discovered. One on the left and one on the right. The one on the left was quite large and likely what has been causing the majority of my pain.

      Small inguinal hernia on right side of abdomen

      Small inguinal hernia on right side of abdomen

      Large inguinal hernia on left pelvis (AKA, The Big Bastard)

      Large inguinal hernia on left pelvis (AKA, The Big Bastard)

      (Sorry, hope you weren't eating ;)) 

      One month later, yesterday (yes, yesterday December 11, 2012),  I had the hernias repaired. They repair the hernias by using what is called mesh and are also performed via a laparoscopic surgery; which is the least invasive option.

      Was repairing these hernias the answer I have been searching for? There is no way of knowing that just yet but I will say, that although I am in a significant amount of pain from the surgery itself, I feel I have crossed a momentous chasm. And I am on the road to a beautiful recovery.

      I am so very grateful for the unwavering support that I have received from my family and close friends. Truly amazing people in my life. Love to you all.  

      My point? ALWAYS listen to your gut, your  mind and your soul. NEVER give up. NEVER accept what you know to be untrue. Trust yourself...

      Stay tuned dear friends ;) xo

      -AEB