My entire life, I’ve had a very sensitive stomach. That’s all I thought it was. I got sick to my stomach a lot, and I have loads of embarrassing memories having to do with my stomach issues. As silly as it might sound, I just learned to deal with it rather than dissecting it and getting to the root. That’s what kids do, usually.
As I grew up, got married, and had kids, my health was not a priority. I ate fast food on a regular basis and we were on a very tight budget, so eating the cleanest of food didn’t feel like a possibility even if I’d cared. Honestly, I used junk food to cope with a lot. I was an emotional eater for sure.
I started getting these intense headaches several times a week, sometimes every day for a period of time.
My spine would start to ache every late afternoon, and I couldn’t even keep my eyes open (Not exaggerating here. It was terrible.) once 2pm rolled around.
My periods were absolutely unbearable. I would cramp so bad I passed out more than once. I would vomit from the pain and cancel 2-3 days of plans because the bleeding was so heavy I couldn't leave the house.
My skin was breaking out with these huge, cystic pimples that hurt so bad and would linger for weeks and weeks.
Weird things started happening to my body and it all got worse when I ate.
It got to a point where anxiety formed around eating. I was afraid to eat unless I knew I wouldn’t need to feel good the next day. I realize how sad that sounds, but that’s where my head was at with four kids and a lot else going on. And then the anxiety started to spread like this terrifying cancer in my life. I was anxious about leaving the house because I might get sick. I was anxious about money. I was anxious about everything all the time. And in this weird way in my head, it was all based on food.
I was afraid of my own body. I spent every day trying to keep it quiet so I could live my life, but nothing worked. I would eat healthy and feel better for a bit and then something would set it off and I’d get super sick and anxiety would flood in again. I felt like I couldn’t pin down what exactly was bothering me.
I knew I didn’t handle heavy dairy well at all (like ice cream and lattes) but other than that I felt at a loss. I had cut out greasy foods and bread and all kinds of different things but would only be okay for a little while before terrible stomach issues would flare up again.
One day last year, I had had enough and went to see a naturopath who specializes in gut health. I sat in her office a sobbing mess. She listened to me and was very gentle as she explained that this is not how I was meant to live. It reminded me of how I am always seeking to live abundantly, not just get by, and I realized I'd been just getting by because of my stomach. I was ready to get to the bottom of this.
She had me lay on my back and felt around my intestines. There were a couple of very sharp pains as she did this, telling her what parts of my body were reacting to my diet and giving her clues about why.
She ran a few other tests and gave me the following diagnosis:
Adrenal fatigue. My body was exhausted. I knew anxiety had a lot to do with that. Anyone who has struggled with it knows how tiring it can be. The naturopath explained that when your adrenals are fatigued, your body is focused on keeping your energy up, so everything else. Including digesting food properly, goes on the back burner and the bare minimum gets done.
Dehydration. I wasn’t drinking enough water, and it was contributing to my upset stomach too. I felt like I was drinking plenty of water, but with my life, the day often got away from me and I was only drinking a bottle or two each day.
Gluten intolerance. A few months later, I would visit a doctor who officially diagnosed me with Celiacs, but I found out from the naturopath early on that my body does not tolerate gluten at all. This is what made me get really intentional about cutting it from my diet.
When we talked, we uncovered that these three things coupled with the fact that I just wasn’t taking proper care of myself and eating “junk food” often was making me sick. My body wasn’t doing well and I had to make a change.
Getting information like this is really overwhelming, especially when you’re a busy mom and business owner who’s (at this time) living in a camper and traveling full-time. I felt like it would be impossible for me to make the changes I needed to make when eating out was a very regular part of our lives in that season because of traveling. I was determined to get serious and find a way to simplify clean eating. I truly believed it was blown way out of proportion and people were overcomplicating it. After all, this is the way God designed us to eat… it could be simple, right?
Well, not at first.
Eating clean is fine, but eating clean in this modern society full of fake additives and gluten in literally everything felt nearly impossible the first few months.
Over time, I found ways to take my motto, “simplify” and apply it to eating well and healing my sick gut. I ended up losing 40 pounds (so far) and I can’t put into words how I feel now versus before. I went from an XL to a Medium, I have way more confidence, and I’m a much happier person.
My periods got so much lighter that a few months ago, I started without even realizing it was that time of the month. Normally, my cramps would be so bad for a few days before starting that it would completely interrupt my life.
My skin cleared up- finally! This probably made me happier than any of the other good things that happened. My skin was a huge burden for me for years and years and years.
Here’s what I learned, and I hope it helps someone reading this who’s struggling in this area!
1. Clean eating boils down to choices.
Making one good choice at a time will move you forward one small step at a time, and it all adds up.
So when I’m invited to a party, my best choice would be to prepare ahead of time by:
a) politely asking if there will be anything served that fits my diet
b) eating a meal before I arrive
c) bringing a healthy snack in my purse just in case
I have several options and any one of them is better than showing up unprepared and panicking when everything being served will make me sick and letting it ruin my experience at an event I was looking forward to.
There have been times I’ve found myself in a situation- starving and unprepared- in a place with junk food only. I just make the best choice I can in each situation. This one is not ideal, and I needed to prepare better, but in that moment I’ll probably find a piece of something offered (like the fruit served on the side of the sandwiches) to hold me over until I can leave.
2. Preparation is key, and just because my life is very full doesn’t mean I have an excuse to fail.
Preparing ahead of time for things is not my strong suite. I’m a pretty spontaneous person, and committing to things ahead of time kinda freaks me out.
When it comes to clean eating, though, preparation is everything. You will not successfully eat a clean diet without preparing food ahead of time. Period.
Telling myself this and owning up to my new reality, as much as it cramped my spontaneous style was key for me. It’s a reality-based pep talk I had to give myself several times in the beginning stages of “going clean”. And once I started preparing better, eating well was so much easier.
3. Food prepping works better for me than meal prepping.
I first heard about food prepping during a coaching call with Amanda Wilson. She told me about it after I complained for several whiny minutes about how much I hate preparing meals and then they don’t sound good when the time comes to heat them up and serve them. #spontaneousgirlproblems
Basically, food prepping is slicing, preparing, and storing basic foods you can use as ingredients or just snack around on. For example, potatoes, cucumber, zucchini, strawberries, things like that.
I started cooking whole chickens, shredding it, and storing it in the fridge. I cooked red potatoes, seasoned with butter and garlic and stored them for later. I wash and sliced berries when I came home from the store rather than just putting the whole box in the fridge.
This had me prepped with lots of food and snack options so that I was putting meals together with already-made ingredients instead of a) cooking from scratch with zero prepared or b) having to eat a meal I prepared for tonight that didn’t even sound good.
P.S. Amanda is a wellness guru and she shares the most practical, amazing clean eating tips on her Instagram (and her InstaStory). Give her a follow and be inspired!
4. Food should get higher financial priority.
Eating clean is more expensive than not eating clean. Everyone knows that. We can complain about it all we want, use it as an excuse to make not-so-great choices, but the fact is we live in a time where convenience food is cheaper and food that God put on this earth to sustain us costs an arm and a leg.
I say we all stop complaining, realize that it is what it is, and do what we can in our specific circumstances. If that means you can buy every single thing the cleanest you can get it, great! If that means you pick and choose which fruits and veggies you buy organic and which ones you can skip because they matter less, okay then, do that.
There are so many resources of eating clean on a budget- look at Pinterest! There’s really no excuse. Maybe you cut back on meats, maybe you shop the sales, maybe you cut back on other expenses in your budget, but don’t let money rule your stomach if you need to eat clean.
I get asked a lot what our budget is for food and groceries, and the truth is we really don’t have one. Eating clean is a high priority for our family not only because of my story, but because my husband has his own story and a very unhealthy family history. This takes priority and we have decided to do everything we can to make eating clean enjoyable, delicious, and as simple as possible.
5. I cannot do what God has called me to do if I don’t feel good, and that’s more than reason enough to be disciplined.
I’ve learned that my stomach problems (and the anxiety they led to) were directly impacting my purpose. I was shying away from opportunities with my kids, in business, as well as socially because of anxiety and worry and stomach aches.
God showed me that I am unable to live my life, be a woman of influence (a duty He gave me that I do not take lightly), raise my kids to the best of my ability, and fulfill His calling on my life if I don’t feel good.
If I am riddled with anxiety and pain I am nearly worthless. I shut down and just need to sleep while I wait for the pains to pass. That is not living an abundant life and that is certainly not how I’m called to live.
There is no food on this planet that’s worth sacrificing that for. That is what I remind myself of when everyone is eating cake. There’s no use for a pity party.
This is the way I was made, and I’ve learned to be truly grateful for it. It made me lose weight and feel better, it made me a more disciplined person, and it forces me to take great care of my temple.
My hope for you who are reading this is that you feel capable and inspired. Clean eating doesn’t have to be this over complicated, mapped out thing that takes over your entire life. Simplify where you can, make healthy choices as you go about your day, and keep learning. As you learn and know more, do better. You CAN do this, and it’s so worth it. I promise!