I consider myself a healthy person. You would hope so, given what I do for a living, right? I eat a diet loaded with whole, minimally processed, mostly vegetarian food; I exercise regularly, my body through physical activity and my brain through avid reading (and crossword puzzles!); I try to get seven hours of sleep a night. Others often admire my lifestyle choices and ask me for advice and guidance on how they can apply the things I do their own lives for various reasons (weight loss or maintenance, cleaner eating, getting more nutrients, etc.). Although I’m happy to share with them, I always give the caveat of “but no one method works for everyone. You have to experiment and figure out what works for your body, rather than just following a set of rules”. I believe this notion with my whole heart and will continue to preach it to anyone who will listen, but I’ve learned recently that the person who really needs to hear it is me.
My struggles with food are not uncommon: only eating low-calorie, high-nutrient foods in order to keep my weight at a steady level; tending to eat the same things every day for convenience and comfort of routine; restricting calories or avoiding certain foods entirely because of fear of gaining a pound or two. Over the years, I have improved, to varying degrees, on all of these issues, but I still have a long way to go. It’s still easy to reach for celery and peanut butter (or almond butter, currently!) as a snack that is low-carb, low-calorie and filling. This is fine once in a while, but it has become a daily snack for me, and sometimes replaces an entire meal. Although these ways of eating were keeping my weight down and helping me to “look good” on the outside, I was letting that overshadow how I was feeling on the inside.
I recently saw my wonderful acupuncturist who generously puts me back together about once a month. In our sessions, he always asks me how my digestion is, how I’m sleeping, etc. I generally respond with “eh”, “fine”, “ok” and the like, because I never really felt like my irregularities and inconsistencies were all that outstanding, they had become normal to me. He continuously suggested I eat cooked, warm foods more often than raw, cold foods in order to keep my digestion flowing properly. I always responded with, “yeah, I’ll try to do that more”. Did I? Well, no. I stuck to my salads and celery and peanut butter and continued to feel “normal”.
At this particular session, he gave me a bit of a wake up call. I have had multiple physical problems, mainly small injuries or misalignments, that have compounded and caused me quite a lot of pain and stress for a pretty long time now. After our sessions together, I generally feel like I was hit by a bus, but that everything is back in its right place. A month later, I come back and am right back where I started. Nothing seems to stick, no matter the form of treatment. He explained that he believes this is happening because my body is malnourished and therefore unable to provide the proper support necessary for these structural adjustments. Although I’m eating healthy foods, I don’t have enough minerals in my diet to help my body absorb and utilize them.
Yikes! All this time I thought I was making smart choices and eating the “right” foods. As it turns out, I wasn’t doing the one thing I always tell my clients to do: ignore the “rules” and truly listen to my body. After some reflection, I realized what this new normal way of feeling really included:
- Always feeling tired. No matter how much sleep I got, I just never felt rested
- My digestion was all over the board, usually going from one extreme to the other
- My body was constantly achy and my specific injuries only seemed to get worse
- My energy level felt like it was always lower than I wanted it to be
After making the correlation between mineral deficiency and all these symptoms, I realized I had to be proactive and finally do something to change how I felt rather than continue on my path and hope it would just magically get better. Again, my acupuncturist recommended I FOR REAL try to eat mainly cooked, warm foods. He also prescribed a few Chinese herbs, one to help regulate my digestion and another to then tonify my blood. He also suggested I make a beef bone broth and drink a cup of it every day in order to provide my body with the minerals it needs to absorb what I’m giving it. He told me to just go crazy and eat a lot of good, fatty stuff. He told me to gain 5 pounds! Woah! No one has EVER told me to do that in my life! I have to admit though, I did have a delicious lamb burger that night for dinner and I truly felt like it helped seal in all the work he did on me: I felt super energized the next day!
All doable stuff, right? Well some of it hasn’t been as easy as I thought it would be. Throughout this journey towards a healthier, happier me, I will be documenting my progress and sharing the ups and downs. I’ve made my broth, click here for the simple recipe and all the info on the nutritional benefits, and am on day three! I have been trying to eliminate raw, cold foods from my diet. Eating seasonally helps, since this is the perfect season for grounding, dense foods, so I’ve been having plenty of sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, cooked greens, and winter squash. I’ve also been trying to eat less sugar and light, Vata foods (for all you Ayurvedics out there), to help facilitate mineral absorption.
So, a lot is happening and I look forward to sharing it all with you! To be continued…