Before the Diagnosis

Now, I'm stuck in a gray area, waiting for another diagnosis.

I’ve talked about many stages of illness before, but now as I face this one again, I realize just how traumatizing the waiting and pain are when you have no idea what’s wrong with you. Now I’m stuck in a gray area, waiting for another diagnosis. Holding my breath, wishing for the best but halfway expecting the worst.

A while back I thought I had just gotten the stomach flu and I did my best to ride it out, but instead of getting better, it continued to get worse. To the point where the pain was so bad that I went to the Emergency Room.

It was a long drawn out wait and my parents sat with me. Distracting me from the pain long enough until I could get a bed. I got a shot and some medications and after the CAT scan I was waiting to be told that it was in fact just the stomach flu. I had overreacted and it was just the stomach flu.

That was what I wanted to be told.

But I wasn’t.

Instead I was told it wasn’t my appendix at least or a cyst, but something was very wrong. The doctor threw out names like Crohn’s disease, celiac, a stomach ulcer, or irritable bowel syndrome and referred me to a gastroenterologist doctor. He also gave me a diet for irritable bowel syndrome in an attempt to ease the pain while I wait. Along with some antacids and nausea medications.

The truth is I’m scared of food, every eating experience is a guessing game. You would think a banana wouldn’t cause excruciating pain and nausea, but it did. An apple also kept me up all night holding my stomach in pain, while in smoothie form they’re much easier for me to digest.

I have to keep a food diary of what I eat and how I feel afterwards. Even more alarming than my current health state is the fact that I don’t know what’s wrong.

There’s always a bit of relief with a diagnosis, a certain agreement in the fact that I am not crazy. My pain is real. What also follows the diagnosis is a wave of emotions that I don’t know if I’m ready to handle right now. I felt like I was finally getting a grip and pulling myself up out of depression. Now, I’m back at the start again and feel pretty helpless.

It’s hard to write these words, but as always, it’s for everyone else out there like me who suffers quietly. The one who rides the ups and downs of chronic illness. For all of us, I will keep record of my journey. And as we always do, I will find a way to pull through.

Just give me some time.

4 Easy Ways to Beat Your Bad Food Cravings

cookies-702931_1280

Now, no food is necessarily bad, as long as you eat it in moderation. However, it’s often the moderation part that trips people up. So if you’re struggling with a food that goes beyond moderate helpings, here are some tips to help you out!

  1. Starve it

The best way that works for me is to go cold turkey on whatever is giving me the most trouble. In particular, chocolate always causes me to binge eat, I could never get enough of it. So I just gave it up completely. Not only does this help it to get out of your system, even though it may take a while, but it also helps to teach yourself self-control. It is okay to tell yourself “no” when you want something.

  1. Eat Regularly

For me, my weakest moments are when I’ve forgotten to eat and feel famished. I have to grab something, ANYTHING! In comes the junk food or overly processed food that I definitely don’t need. But by cooking ahead and planning out my meals instead of leaving it to random chance, I’m less at risk of giving in.

  1. Eat things you like

Don’t take away everything that you like to eat at once or you’ll be more likely to revert back to old ways. Remember, the best change for your health is to change your lifestyle and not just make it a quick diet. Everything is okay to eat, in moderation. As long as you have control over it, go for it! If a healthy recipe doesn’t taste right to you, alter it! Play around with seasonings and experiment until you like it.

  1. Make Replacements

I love potato chips, I probably always will. But what I really love is the texture of them, that satisfying crunch! You know what else gives me that crunch? Granola, and it’s a lot healthier for me too. I also eat less granola when I snack on it and I’m happier. If you have a sweet tooth, get more fruit. And go beyond the basic fruits, try out something different. For me, pomegranates are a huge treat.

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Most importantly, if your cravings still continue it may be that your body does have a need for something. So make sure that you are eating well-rounded meals and that you’re getting enough vitamins every day.

4 tips for Cooking Healthier on a Budget

healthy plate

Healthy eating doesn’t need to be expensive! I know, crazy thought, right? A lot of people may think that one excuse for not living a healthier lifestyle is how expensive it is to cook and eat healthier. However, you’d be surprised at how affordable it actually can be. It really just depends on where you shop and how you shop.

  1. Discount grocery stores

Overlooking discount grocery stores can be a mistake, plenty of times I have found high-quality items at these stores for better prices. A lot of the name brand food items can have very similar comparisons for less, you really are paying for the name. The upside is if you buy fruits and vegetables from here, they will often be ripe already and you won’t have to wait for them to ripen. This also means that you shouldn’t get more than you need at discount stores, but just get enough for the week.

  1. Buy in Bulk

If you have a large family, you can research in your area for places to buy fruits and vegetables in bulk. After some looking around, I found a food terminal in my area where I was able to buy apples and oranges by the box. Or pretty much anything I wanted. This was great for whenever I was making my own juice at home. They have a ton of amazing deals, all you need to do is look around and find them.

  1. Go for leaner meats

Chicken and ground turkey are very affordable. Sometimes I can find deals on fish, but mostly chicken and ground turkey are my go to staples for protein. I’ve switched out ground beef for turkey in quite a few dishes, not only is it healthier, but it’s often more cost-effective as well.

  1. Cook for more than one meal

If you have a lot of food already cooked and ready to eat, you’re less likely to need a lot of junk food on hand for snacking in-between. It also allows you to be prepared to eat many small meals in a day, instead of just three large ones where you are more inclined to overeat. By shopping and cooking in bulk, you can actually save money in the long run. If you have too much, don’t cook it all at once but freeze some for later.

These are just a few tips to get you started, but as always, I started with what I already had. Don’t feel like you have to eat up all the junk food or sweets in your house before you can start making healthier purchases, just start right now a little bit at a time. Buy a head of lettuce instead of the prepackaged bags, try out different vegetables incorporated with your normal meals. It’s the small changes that can help you gradually shift to a more permanent change and a healthier lifestyle.

I’m still working on my own changes and over the years, my body has started to crave more healthy, less processed food. I also don’t feel lethargic when I’m giving my body what it needs to survive, I try to take control of my health in any way that I can and I encourage you to do the same.

If you’d like to check out an easy recipe that I put up on my channel for chicken tenders at home, you can watch that here:

Health and Fitness: 6 Tips to Get Started

HEALTHY FOOD

Everywhere I look I see extreme diets or new exercise programs popping up. Being healthy and exercising has become so mainstream and money centered that people often ask me how I lost so much weight. They’re always shocked when I say, eating right and exercising. There’s no miracle diet and no reason to pour out your money on the next big thing, in fact, to get started all you really need is you.

  1. Start with what you have
Walking The track
I also walked around the track, sometimes backward

I started out with what I had, which happened to be a dancing game. From there I moved on to old workout DVDs for free, from the library. I don’t recommend spending hundreds of dollars on DVD’s or equipment when you’re just getting started. Try out some and see what you like! You can also get free memberships from most gyms to try them out. If you’re in college, check your college gym. If your job has a gym, see if there’s a special membership.

  1. Start out slowly

It’s okay to still eat some things that aren’t the best, as long as you’re planning on eating them in moderation and for some things, eliminating them entirely. In time. You don’t have to do it all at once, but you should start somewhere. The first thing I cut out was pop because I was drinking a LOT of my calories. I still have it occasionally but nowhere near as much as I used to. Now I turn to water for my main drink.

  1. AVOID THE SWEETS!
My last big sugar high
Last big sugar high

I’m not sure why, but everywhere I go or everywhere I look I see sweets. Once I began to take account of just how many sweets I was eating (especially during all the birthdays!) I cut back on and eventually eliminated them all. You don’t have to get rid of sweets entirely like I did, but for the moment I had to.

On the bright side, it’s helped me learn how to say no to people. A lot.

  1. Do what you enjoy

Make sure you find an exercise that you can do, but also something that you enjoy. You never want to be doing something that causes you pain, always check with your doctor before starting anything. And take it easy the first few days. Sports, dancing, and taking walks through the park are also great ways to make sure that you move around, that’s the most important thing. Get creative! And find an accountability partner.

  1. Don’t fear the scale

A lot of people view the scale as the enemy, I know because I used to be one of those people. My boyfriend encouraged me to start using it and weighing in weekly has really helped me, even when my weight fluctuates, I can think back over the week and see what unhealthy habits I can improve on for the next week. On the weeks when I’ve lost a few pounds, I feel really accomplished! Also, having a weigh-in day helps make me accountable for my own choices throughout the week.

  1. Start today

It’s easy to set plans and say what we could do and what we will do, but the best thing to do is just drop everything and start living a healthier life right now today. It doesn’t mean you have to buy all organic produce and completely get rid of everything you have. But it does mean to be more mindful of what you’re eating and the portions for what you’re eating. Ease in more fruits and vegetables and water, try out new recipes! It can be a lot of fun if you’re planning on making it a lifestyle change and not just another quick diet.

Praise Through the Storm

Job 1 21

I’m tired and weary. The thing about chronic pain is that you never get a break or a day off. It discourages me sometimes, even when I cling on to hope for a better future, I worry about how long it will take to come. On top of the pain, things seem to keep spiraling out of my control. I see prayers being answered left and right for other people I’m praying for, but when it comes to my own issues there’s a significant lack or slowness to the results.

What do I do when I feel like my world is falling apart and nothing is going my way? I read the book of Job.

Now I’m not the type of person who finds comfort that someone else “has it worse than me”. If anything it just makes me feel worse that other people are suffering too. But the curious thing about Job in the Bible, is that when literally everything was going wrong, just because the devil decided to see if he could make Job curse God, he still didn’t blame God for it. He still kept on trusting God.

Job was rich and had tons of children, he had a good life. And in one fell swoop, he lost all of it. His livestock and his children were all killed in one horrifying twist. Even then:

20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Job 1:20-21

But that still wasn’t enough for the devil to destroy his life, after that he went back and asked for permission from God to attack Job’s health next and said then Job would curse God, even with Job losing everything and his health in tatters, he still didn’t curse God. In time, God restored everything to Job and more. It always lets me know that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope for complete restoration.

I strive to hold on, even when I can’t understand what God is doing in my life right now. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m exactly where God wants me to be in my life. I’m blindly walking out on the water and trusting him to show me the way. I’m believing that the plan he has for my life, for all of our lives, is greater than any of us could ever comprehend.

If we continue to trust him through the storms, if we continue to pray and praise him when we hurt the strongest, when we have no way of knowing how things will work out, or when they will. Then we can all say “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Here’s a song I love from Joseph: King of Dreams (a retelling of the story of Joseph) that resonates with how I feel much of the time. It’s called You Know Better Than I:

You Are Enough

Made on Canva.com
Made on Canva.com

Have you ever felt overwhelmed? I have and I do, time and time again. This week especially was difficult, first I was sick with who knows what, but with a lack of immune system the smallest thing can kick my tail and my body falls apart completely trying to fight it. I didn’t get a lot done this week, I wrote when I could and I crafted a bit but the smallest things took so much energy. Mostly I rested. Getting out of bed was my little victory for most days.

I found myself lacking, because I couldn’t do all that I wanted to do. I didn’t even do all that I felt that I needed to do some days, but what I needed to set as a main priority was taking care of myself. I find that, for me at least, taking care of myself mentally and physically was never high up on my to do list and when I do make specific time out for myself I feel kind of bad, like I‘m being selfish. But if I don’t take care of myself, I’m in no position to help anyone else. The point of the matter is even if you don’t get a lot done, even if you don’t meet your goals for the week, that’s okay.

You are enough, just as you are.

I’m not sure why there’s always this constant battle with myself over whether or not I’ve accomplished enough to the point where I feel okay to take care of myself. I’ve been doing better at staying positive and remembering who I am and that I am enough, but it’s still something that I fight to cling on to each day.

People are always so busy, and with the act of being busy we can easily become frazzled and forget that we need to rest. That it’s okay for things to slow down, even when things are still and it’s just you and the silence, you’re still enough.

There’s nothing you can do that would make you any more of enough or worthy than you are right now in this moment. Of course there are skills that you can better yourself in, but it’s not what defines you as a person. You are literally the only person like you that there is. You have an amazing personality and your smile is uniquely yours. It’s not about what you can accomplish, or can’t accomplish right now. It’s not even about future goals that may still be outside of your grasp.

It’s about living, truly living.

Enjoying every single breath that you take. No matter what the day may bring, each day is a gift. So do things you enjoy and spend quality time with the people who you love to be around that make you smile. It’s okay if things are rough right now, they will get better eventually, one day. But for now, even with things imperfect as they are, right now is a great time to be enjoying life.

Fitness and Health: How I lost 100 pounds

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I used to weigh 289 pounds. During my battle with my autoimmune disease I was put on such a high dosage of steroids that my appetite was ridiculous. I was ashamed to eat out in public because I could easily consume two full meals at a restaurant and still feel hungry. When I came to the realization that being sedentary on top of eating so many calories in a day was easily going to tip me into the 300s and beyond, I decided to start making changes.

I wanted to start a healthy lifestyle for many reasons. One of those reasons was with all the health issues I had going on I didn’t want to get anything else from being overweight. I wanted to take charge and have control over my health as much as I could. And for another, I had learned to love myself. Truly and completely, just as I was.

I would at first stare in anger at myself, hating what I had become. But I read somewhere in a book (I can’t remember which one) but it said to practice telling yourself that you love yourself and that you are beautiful in the mirror every day for 30 days. It took me beyond 30 days to feel like I wasn’t crazy but I actually did love myself. Even with the “moon face” from the steroids, even though my teeth aren’t perfect, even though I was overweight, even though I had scars and discolorations that would never go away, I was beautiful.

By loving myself, I also realized that I had to take care of myself. Recklessly consuming junk food and chocolate (tons and tons of it!) were not making my appetite situation any better. My steroid dosage had been lowered and I decided to start where I was. I knew next to nothing about exercising and losing weight, but I knew what my doctor had told me countless times. Eat right, exercise, drink water. There’s really no magic formula.

I liked to dance, so I started off with a game called Dance Dance Revolution. There was a dance pad on the floor and you had to step on the arrows in time to the music. There was different difficulty settings on the game and I started off on about easy to medium depending on the song, I did 30 minutes a day. I didn’t do anything to my eating immediately, and because of that, there were many comments made about how it was counterproductive that I still ate whatever I wanted. I felt disheartened, but I knew the weight hadn’t just jumped on me one day and it wasn’t going to come off in one day either.

I cut pop out of my diet first, I knew I was drinking most of my calories. Next I cut back on sweets, but I didn’t give them up completely at this point. I was just trying to focus on exercising every single day and making it a part of my routine, even when I was sore or in pain, I would go to great lengths to try to get in some kind of exercise.

The progress did not happen overnight, and though I lost weight quickly at the beginning from making small changes it has been a long road ever since then. Going through many health issues and new medications through it all slowed me up a lot. I fell off the wagon time and time again, I binged on chocolates when I was depressed. I’d stop exercising for months and then pick myself back up again.

One of my art teachers once told me:

“Inspiration and motivation will only carry you so far, but if you keep up your determination, you can do absolutely anything you put your mind to.”

He told me this because I really sucked at making pottery, but I would go to that classroom every day. Before class, after class. I would take my clay home with me and work at it until I got better. He told me that was the kind of determination I needed to use on whatever I wanted to do in life and I applied it to my health journey.

Even when I fell, I got back up. I didn’t look at the scale because it depressed me. But I was shocked when I went to the doctor’s office and noticed how fast the weight was falling off of me. I had to keep getting smaller clothing and eventually other people began to notice too.

I ended up losing 100 pounds, against all odds. Even suffering from hypothyroidism, I just got the needed medications and kept pressing on. Every battle with health issues pushed me back some, and yeah it’s happened again. But I keep picking myself back up, the best way to make a change in your life is to never give up. I still haven’t reached my goal healthy weight yet, but that’s okay. I’m well on my way, and I’m determined to make it. I won’t let anything stop me or hold me back.

If you’ve struggled with being overweight, or just want to make healthy changes in your lifestyle, I say do it! Don’t over-think it, don’t let anyone else tell you that you can’t do it. You can do absolutely anything that you put your mind to. Take small steps, take it one day at a time, but also keep in mind the future you that you’re working for. It won’t be fast or easy, but it is well worth it.