Transformation

Guest Post: “Make The Best With What You Have”

Hillary and I met just over a year ago, we hit it off immediately. We bonded over autoimmune diseases and our love for health! Hillary and her husband own CrossFit Bloomfield in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Hillary is also a nutrition coach. You can follow Hillary on Instagram @bisselofthisandthat where she shares photos of her many delicious recipes. You can also check out her website http://www.bisselofthisandthat.com for more health and nutrition motivation! Hillary and I both felt that sharing her story would help others take a step forward in taking back their health. 

As a child there definitely was focus on healthy eating.  My mom was and still is an amazing cook.  She was never scared to push the boundaries with recipes to incorporate as many fruits and vegetables as possible in us.  We never had soda in the house.  If we wanted something like mac & cheese, it was Annie’s Organic.  I didn’t know what Kraft mac & cheese was until I had it at friend’s house and I just knew I was eating something terrible for me.

I have always had stomach issues. I was also constantly sick with sinus and flu like symptoms.  I was often tested for mono and the Epstein Bar Virus.  Finally, there was a doctor that suggested I remove dairy from my diet.  I was immediately better.  My parents also decided to keep our home vegetarian.  I still spent many of my days bloated.  I didn’t realize that legumes and soy products were not good for my personal system, but my family was always willing to try any changes in our diets to better our disposition.  I think the thought of being a vegetarian sounded better than what it was physically doing for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I think veganism and vegetarianism are both wonderful ways of life.   What I do have a problem with are the fake animal products that are conjured up out of words I can’t even pronounce that shouldn’t even be in our systems to begin with.  Or, when people say they don’t eat meat or fish and then just live off of pb&j sandwiches because they don’t like veggies.  I have seen it!  On the contrary, I have also seen people that are paleo think that it is okay to eat bacon at every meal and totally eliminate greenery. OMG I totally got off subject!  My point is, growing up there was a lot of learning involved to find out what was the best way to eat as my body was trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Middle school was the time I realized I needed to make a change in terms of dairy.  That was also the time we went vegetarian.

4 years ago, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Hashimotos’s Thyroiditis is basically an autoimmune disease in which your body’s immune system literally starts attacking the thyroid.  Because of this you end up with constant inflammation.  It affects the joints, stomach, brain, etc.  I was told I had arthritis and fibromyalgia and IBS.  Both of these things were due to the Hashimoto’s.  Once my diet was on point, both of these things kept at bay.  Most often if you have Hashimoto’s you will have hypothyroidism.  However not everyone who has hypothyroidism has Hashimoto’s.  This means your thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones. I was paleo during the week and would have a cheat day on the weekends.  A few months before my diagnosis I started breaking out in hives head to toe.  My hair was thinning.  My voice was hoarse.  I was always exhausted beyond belief.  I couldn’t heal from any injury.  I gained 25-30lbs out of nowhere.  I could eat air and water and gain a million lbs.  It was insane.  I was getting angioedema in my lips, contractures in my hands, etc.  It was at that point that I realized I needed to go paleo 24/7.  Not even paleo but, autoimmune paleo.  It wasn’t just a cool CrossFit thing to do.  This was real life. MY LIFE!  My endocrinologist put me on thyroid medication and I researched how to use food as well as spices to help heal my body.  Since then I have lost all the weight and I feel like a totally different person.

 

 

Hillary Before

Aside from everything above, I knew that whatever steps I needed to take couldn’t just be for immediate relief.  The physical pain and emotional pain it was causing was so intense I needed to take drastic actions to make sure I would never revert back to where I was ever again.  I would never wish that kind of pain on anyone.  I looked like a monster and I felt like one.  I still have tiny flair ups every now and then.  I know they are due to the fact that as I get older, my body is changing and stresses are different.  I stopped sweating a few months back and my doctors and I decided to get myself off of birth control after being on it for 17 years.   Now when I get hot, I itch and it feels like little knives are stabbing me. The idea is hopefully my body will start regulating itself and that it doesn’t need all the extra hormones being pumped into my system any more.  Since I have been off my birth control, I got my period and my forehead gets a little moist and slightly sweaty when I workout which is MAJOR!  I still get itchy though.  Hopefully that part will stop soon.  Those are the types of flair up situations I have.

 

 

    Hillary Now!

I eat a lot of kale, spinach, cauliflower rice, sardines in water and olive oil, smoked mussels in olive oil, red and golden beets, daikon, cucumbers, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, blueberries, bananas, arugula, homemade cashew cheese, curry powder is a MUST, coconut oil, green curry paste is also a must, ginger beet kraut, Garden of Life raw unflavored protein powder, organic chicken, matcha tea.  These are the staples you will find in my house….oh and dates (I have a sweet tooth!)

Soo…. normally for breakfast I would have a bowl of cauliflower rice with with wilted kale, arugula or spinach, sardines, cucumbers, beets curry powder and pumpkin seeds and a cup of tea. Mid day I would have a shake that would have Garden of life Raw unsweetened protein powder with some blueberries, banana, beet, maca powder, cacao powder and water. I might make a soup that has bone broth, daikon, chicken, beets, some coconut aminos, curry powder, carrots, celery, and a billion other veggies and serve it with ginger beet kraut on top.

IMG_0221

When asked what advice Hilary would give to other looking to make a change:Have a piece of humble pie and truly take care of yourselves.  If you need to go gluten free then do it.  Don’t say you sort of do it.  That’s like saying you are sort of pregnant.  Same goes for removing refined sugars or dairy.  There are plenty of ways to go about doing things so you have foods to make you feel like you aren’t feeling deprived.  Be your own advocate.  How you feel doesn’t just have an effect on you, but everyone around you.  If you want to feel your best, then hold yourself accountable and take action.  We have one body.  We aren’t a car that we can trade in and exchange for a new one.  Make the best with what you have.

Hillary Levin

 

Back To School Health Reset: Part 3

If you missed Part 2, you can find it here

Get Moving!

walking-2635038_640

With summer holidays coming to an end it is likely that stress levels are going up. A great way to manage stress, and improve your health, is to exercise. Often when we think of exercise we picture a one hour gym session that leaves us gasping for air. When I say exercise, I am talking about anything that gets your heart rate up. If your fairly sedentary, a walk may be enough to accomplish this. If walking doesn’t cause you to break a sweat, it’s time to find something that does. Check out your local gyms for class options, don’t be afraid to try something new. If your a homebod, or find it difficult to carve out time, complete a simple at home workout. I’m posting an at home, and walking, workout example below. Keep in mind that you should speak with a health care professional before beginning a new exercise routine, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.

In 10 minutes complete as many rounds of the following as possible:                                   10 Push-ups :these can be wall, or chair push-ups if necessary                                                  10 squats: If you have never done a squat before a good starting place is simply sitting      down to a chair and standing back up                                                                                              10 Tuck sits: start by lying on your back and then sitting to a tucked position, for an          easier version sit in a chair and raise your knees to you chest.

20 min walking/jogging                                                                                                                       Alternate walking and jogging between telephone poles. Each telephone pole is about 50m apart from the next. If this becomes easy, increase it to two telephone poles. You will be jogging the full 20min before you know it. Keep in mind, jogging is not a suitable exercise if you have a bad hip, knee or ankle. If you have had previous injuries you should speak to a health professional before beginning a new routine.

If you are looking for some guidance in this area, check out our exercise services here

Get Moving!

Charity

 

My Health Journey: Fit to Sick to Fit

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome. “

-Arthur Ashe

Hello Friends, today’s post is going to be a bit more personal than my previous posts. I wouldn’t be writing this blog if a very long health journey hadn’t led me here. Some of you already know some of this, but I have included things that I haven’t mentioned before. We all have a unique story, and sometimes one person sharing can lead to many others opening up. I hope that through my story you learn to never settle for mediocre health. We all deserve to live a healthy life.

2007

This is before diagnosis. I didn’t even know I was sick. I had always been thin, and at fifteen years old it didn’t seem strange to me to be underweight. Around the time of this photo my symptoms started. It was like a switch had been flipped. Overnight, I became exhausted and depressed. The world that had always looked full of possibility now looked dark and empty. I felt nothing while wanting to feel something so badly. The only emotion that came through was a deep sadness, like being just below the surface of the water gasping for air, but unable to will myself to swim up out of it. Physically I felt weak. In the mornings I would have to lie in bed for 10-15 minutes before I had enough energy to sit up. Just getting through the day took every ounce of energy. I considered self harm just to feel something. Thankfully my parents kept a close eye on me and made themselves available for me to talk to at anytime. My dad was always a shoulder to cry on. When he had his big arms wrapped around my I felt safe. My mom was my health advocate. I would not have the health I have today if she had not been so persistent in finding answers. I could write a book on how much my parents did for me during these years, but if you know them you know that’s not their style. During this time my digestion acted up. Everything I ate hurt my stomach and would pass through me within 30 minutes. Along with this came some bad acne…every teenagers worst nightmare.

IMG_1222

2008-2009

I don’t have a picture from these two years, I didn’t like having my photo taken because I knew how sick I looked. I knew I resembled a drug addict. In 2008, I made frequent visits to my doctor begging him to help me. He would prescribe anti-depressants, but I never filled the prescription. I knew depression was a symptom and not a cause. During one of my visits, he prescribed anti-depressants again, and in a louder than necessary voice I said “I am depressed because no one will help me! I am depressed because I am too sick to live my life!” That was the day he scheduled me for other tests. Shortly after, a Celiac disease diagnosis was given. My mom had already suggested Celiac disease as a possible diagnosis, and I had been on a gluten-free diet for a very short amount of time. At this point, I had went a whole year with symptoms and no diagnosis. The damage was done… to this day it has not been fully reversed. At this time, I was also having really bad periods, and would lie on the couch groaning in pain. My doctor suggested a birth control pill to lessen the symptoms,so I accepted without asking about side effects, and started the pill immediately. My symptoms did lessen, but years later the side effects would show themselves.

2010

In 2010, I walked on to the Lake Superior State University cross country team. They offered me a scholarship, and I welcomed the extra money. the stress of the long runs was too much for my body and only made me more sick. I had so hoped that this would be something I could do pain-free. I decided not to run after that first year of cross country. My body couldn’t handle the stress I was putting on it by running two hours a day, six days a week.  My stomach was slowly healing, but I wasn’t gaining weight. I could eat all day long and still feel like I was starving when I went to bed. A natural path suggested I had absorption problems and had me start a diet specific to my symptoms. I would try a couple different diets over the years.  I was in my second year of the Exercise Science Program. I had always been interested in exercise, and loved learning about the human body and what it was capable of. A year prior I had found Catalyst Fitness, and fell in love with CrossFit and Weightlifting.

IMG_1220

2011

Even though my stomach was slowly on the mend, I was still not absorbing the nutrients I needed. This led to anemia, low vitamin D, low calcium, and the list goes on. Those years were very fuzzy for me. I was determined to get healthy, but I was so tired everything was a blur. I would force myself to go to the gym because I knew it was good for me. I would force myself to swallow massive pills because I knew I needed the nutrients. I forced myself to do whatever I needed to do in order to regain my health. Some days it felt like I was stuck, like things would never get better. I still had bouts of depression and anxiety that would set me back, but thanks to the encouragement from my parents and boyfriend I kept pursuing better health. I also struggled with brain fog, which made it difficult for me to get through my classes at school, so I had to spend hours of relearning at home.

IMG_1221

2012

I would call this my turn around year. My body made some gains. I was finally able to gain some weight! I was about 140 lbs, which was a huge improvement on the 110 lbs that I had been stuck at for years. I experimented with cutting out other foods that could be allergens, and really focused on not only keeping gluten out of my diet but also dairy.  With the good also came some more bad: I had intense cravings. Sometimes it was ice cream, sometimes it was french fries. It would hit me so hard I would drop whatever I was doing to get what I wanted. I was actually able to tan. The previous summers it was like my skin couldn’t absorb anything. It didn’t matter if I was out in the sun for long periods of time. I regained a bit of colour in the summers, but was still ghostly pale in the winter. Dan (my boyfriend, now husband) proposed to me, and we set the wedding date for June 2013. He was and is such a light in my life. I don’t know if I would be here without him. He stuck by me through things that most people would bail on, and proved he would never leave me.

IMG_1223

2013

I started building muscle. My body was able to absorb enough nutrients to make some gains. It kept me motivated to keep pushing forward. Right before my wedding I weighed 155 lbs and felt great about it. I looked healthier than I ever had. I didn’t realize how much further I still had to go. Dan and I got married and went to Chicago for our honeymoon. We came back to very busy work schedules. Because my job had varying hours I would come home in-between clients and take naps. Almost everyday I went home, even if it was just for 20 minutes, I would go to sleep. I would wake up feeling just as tired as before. The problem with chronic fatigue is you’re too tired to do anything about it. At first I thought I must just be a bad wife because I didn’t have the energy to cook or clean. Dan fended for himself a lot, and NOT ONCE did he complain. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have more energy when I was working so hard to be healthy.

IMG_1224

2014

I still struggled on and off with fatigue. Fall and Spring were really rough for me. My whole body seemed to turn on me for 4-6 weeks during both seasons, and I would struggle with various health issues. In December and January I would often struggle with depression. I would cry at night on Dan’s shoulder. I would tell him how badly I wanted to feel normal, and how hard it was to not put a smile on everyday when on the inside I was sad. He would comfort me and tell me it was going to get better. He was right. I started to struggle with water retention. I could look like I gained 10 lbs over night. It was so strange to go from being underweight to having days where I felt uncomfortably overweight. I wasn’t overweight by any means, but anyone who has experienced water retention knows that it feels like a lot of weight.

IMG_1225

2015

My struggles with water retention continued, which sometimes caused me to weigh 15 lbs more than normal. I could not figure out why. I tried different supplements and diets, but nothing worked long-term. I reached a point where I just accepted that this was part of me, and so I tried to focus on other things. I also started experiencing hair loss. I would find it on my pillow, my clothes, in my food, it was everywhere. When I would wash my hair there would be tons of hair going down the drain. I was also struggling with sugar cravings, abnormally intense sugar cravings. I would eat whole containers of Häagen Dazs in one sitting. At the same time I was having lots of unexplained nerve pain. Shooting pain in my lower back and my feet would go numb when I was running. The gym I attend has an excellent Athletic Therapist names Michelle Young. One of the great things about Michelle is she loves to learn, if she can’t tell you what wrong with you she will do research until she can. After a few different assessments and treatments we were both confused, nothing was working. Michelle did research on her own time and suggested I have my B12 tested.  Little did I know how life changing that suggestion would be. This led to another amazing person entering my life. I scheduled an appointment with Terry Lutes hoping she could send me for blood work. She is a natural path in Sault Ste. Marie, ON. I knew as soon as I met her that she could be trusted and would not take my story lightly. She gave me a ton of great health advice. After our consultation she sent me for blood work at life labs. Within a few days she called me to tell me I had severely low vitamin B12 levels. A quick google and I found some answers. I learned that people with Celiac disease often have impaired ability to absorb B12, but it usually repairs itself when they’ve been on a gluten-free diet. Low B12 can lead to exhaustion, anxiety, depression, hair loss, cravings and nerve damage. Almost all of my existing symptoms could be linked to low vitamin B12. What frustrated me about this was that not once did my doctor notice this.

IMG_1226

2016

I started getting regular B12 shots. At first I went every week, because if I tried to go longer my symptoms would return. My body just couldn’t absorb vitamin B12 on its own. It was a mystery. I had been gluten-free for 8 years. My body should have healed and been restored of its ability to absorb nutrients again. I started researching again. I came to the conclusion that I needed to get off the birth control I had been put on years before. I can’t remember exactly what gave me the idea to research the birth control pill, but once I started I was shocked at what I found. When birth control pills were first invented they couldn’t find people to test them because the side effects were so severe. They had considered making the pill for men, but any man they gave it to couldn’t handle the side effects. Prolonged use of most birth control pills is linked to malabsorption of many nutrients including iron, B12, and Vitamin D. The list of side effects is endless, and if you search online you will find forums of women sharing lists of side effects not even listed on the box. I stopped taking the pill at the beginning of October. The first month was rough. It was like being on a hormone roller coaster. After the first month I started to see improvements.

IMG_1227

2017

I have now been off birth control for six months, and cannot believe the difference. I feel like a completely different person. If you look in the picture below you will notice my skin has more of an olive tone. I have no tan right now. This is my natural colour returning to me, as my health returns. I still get a regular vitamin B shot,  but only have to get it once every three weeks. The water retention is gone, and I am back at a healthy and comfortable weight. My emotions are what surprise me the most. I have not had any issues with depression or anxiety as long as I eat healthy and exercise regularly. Fall and Spring are still rough seasons for me, but are now perfectly manageable and do not disrupt my life like they used to. Through this whole experience it would have been so easy to lose hope and just accept the health issues that I had. As a Christian I knew that good would one day come from the suffering and placed my hope in God knowing he never disappoints. My journey has led me to want to help other people with their health journey. No one should have to live with sub-par health. If you are struggling with your health or maybe you’ve just accepted certain aspects of your health as permanent, I want to encourage you to keep fighting, and keep looking for answers. Seek out alternative health professionals if your current ones aren’t taking you seriously. You know your body better than anyone, and you deserve good health!

IMG_1228

If you have a story about your health I would love to hear it. Feel free to post in the comments below or on Facebook. If you’d rather privately message me, I would be more the happy to listen and encourage you.

Eat your veggies!

Charity

%d bloggers like this: