The idea for my wellness project entered my life when I was at a loss.
After years of denial, it was finally clear that many of the symptoms I was suffering from—crushing fatigue, numb appendages, prepubescent-level acne, and menopausal-grade hot flashes, to name a few—were a result of my Hashimotos Thyroiditis.
I had started doing my own research and tracking down sound, holistic medical advice. In other words, I was ready to heal. But once the laundry list of dietary labor and lifestyle measures that were required to do so were in my hand, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to change.
Some people who approach habits with more of an all or nothing attitude may have no problem turning their lives upside down overnight. For me, it was just too much all at once. I felt like a failure for the advice I didn’t heed, and worried that the few things I did adopt were only a drop in the bucket.
What I needed was a roadmap. A system that would slowly onboard me to a new way of living. One that allowed me to really see which changes moved the needle, at a pace that was realistic for the long haul.
The roadmap that I designed for myself became a yearlong project, with
twelve short-term experiments—including eliminating sugar, switching to all-natural beauty products, and feeding my gut critters. And, long story short, it worked.
What I discovered is that we don’t have to do all of the above, all at once. Small baby steps can amount to a big leap forward in your wellness. And it’s something you can easily experiment with in an even more manageable timeframe.
So to help you do just that, I have a new series kicking off today: #4WeeksToWellness. I’ve asked some of my favorite experts to weigh in on their top four lifestyle changes, and give you a month-long roadmap for battling other chronic conditions. And I couldn’t be more excited to kick things off with the queen of patterns and plants: Jessica Murnane.
You may know Jessica’s voice from her mega popular radio show The One Part Podcast, or her brand spanking new cookbook One Part Plant. But I’m hoping some of you also recognize her from all the badass advocacy work she’s done around Endometriosis. I won’t get into too much of her story, since she tells it so much better herself below. But I’ll just say for the record: it’s pretty damn inspiring.
One of my favorite things about Jessica’s philosophy with the One Part Plant movement, and one reason (in addition to her ability to somehow make lady kaftans look sexy AF) that I tracked her down for an IRL cocktail two summers ago in Chicago, is that she recognizes that change is hard. We all have to start somewhere. And it’s often easier to focus on just one part, or one meal, at a time.
Without further ado, I give you Jessica Murnane’s #4WeeksToWellness roadmap for bettering your relationship with Endometriosis. Stay tuned for more from this series (holler at my PCOS peeps – you’re next!), and make sure to check out Jessica’s book for some delicious ways to make good on the plan below!
From one healthy hedonist, to another,
This isn’t a fun thing to lead with, but I just want to get it out of the way: There is no cure for endometriosis. There is no magic pill. There is no remission for this disease. You may never be the kind of woman that says “oops! I started my period!” and a panty liner will do. No, not with endo. If you’ve got endo, she isn’t going anywhere. And for as long as you are in your body, you’re going to have a relationship with her. She’ll make you mad, hurt your feelings, and at times make you feel absolutely crazy.
It took me years to get along with my endometriosis (I have Stage 4). I had so much resentment and anger towards my disease. It cost me so much emotionally and physically. It affected my work and relationships and really most everything in my life. Most days I just wanted to just sleep forever. I knew that being awake meant being in pain and I hated my body so much for what it was putting me through.
But when I was faced with a hysterectomy at the age of 33, I decided to make a giant leap of faith and make some big changes in my life. Most importantly, I decided to work with my relationship with my endometriosis.
Those changes and that work have paid off in ways I could have never imagined. My symptoms have dramatically decreased and some have vanished completely. I’m actually upright during the first days of my period! Something that seems like it should be normal, but something I never thought could be possible.
Now. Our relationship isn’t perfect. She can still be a real asshole and give me a second trimester-looking bloated belly, just as I’m about to put on my most fitted jeans. And yes, a panty liner will never do. But I don’t hate her anymore, because I realize that I am ME, because of her.
But it’s been a lot of hard work to get to this place. Just like so many relationships in our lives, they take work. This relationship is no different.
My endo sisters, we need to put in the work. We can no longer sit back and let this disease happen to us. Nope. We need to take care of ourselves and do the work like it’s our full time job, no matter how hard or uncomfortable it might make us feel.
There is no cure for endometriosis. But we have tools and strategies in our power to manage the worst symptoms. And we owe it to ourselves to use them.
Week One: Find a good doctor.
You might be thinking, “duh”. But not all doctors are created equal. Finding a good doctor means one that is up to date on the latest research, will refer you to a surgery specialist if he/she is not one, is open to nutrition, holistic wellness practices, and will actually spend time listening to your needs and concerns. This week, put in the work and do some research to find a good doctor.
Endo and inflammatory foods do not get along. Think about it. Your insides are already pretty inflamed, so you’re only adding fuel to the fire by eating food that cause inflammation. For many women with endo, eating a whole-foods plant-based diet (gluten-free too) can really help manage their pain and symptoms.
This week, start with one plant-based meal a day (One Part Plant!). Every day, make veggies, fruits, grains, seeds, nuts, and and/or legumes/pulses the star of the show for one meal a day. And that doesn’t mean it has to be a boring bowl of steamed veggies and rice. It can be creamy soups, tacos, or lasagna. One meal is a manageable place to start, so start there and see what happens.
Week Three: Switch up your pads and tampons (also, maybe ditch tampons all together).
We worry so much about the chemicals we ingest and put on our bodies. We buy organic fruits and veggies and use the best skin care, but so many women are still using tampons and pads that aren’t good for us. Feminine hygiene companies are not required to disclose the ingredients in their products. And those ingredients can range from synthetics, wood pulp, and bleach. Scary stuff.
This week, invest in pads or tampons that are made of 100% organic cotton. Yes, they are more expensive. But in the long run, your health is worth every penny. You can also ditch tampons all together. Many women with endo experience more pain when using tampons. If you’re one of them, check out THINX. They’re underwear with built-in protection, which means no more pads either.
Endometriosis hates stress. Many women with endometriosis experience increased pain and symptoms when dealing with stress.
This week, find a couple new ways to manage your stress. Meditation can definitely help, but I also get meditation isn’t for everyone. Find a couple of ways to manage your stress that work for YOU. Whether that’s turning off your phone for twenty minutes and listening to peaceful music, closing your eyes in a warm bath, jumping on a rebounder, or simply stretching your body in bed.
Also, managing stress doesn’t always mean adding something to your life, it can also mean taking something away. Are there any friends or family in your life that cause extra drama? Limit interaction with them. Does all the hours you’re putting into your job interfere with your self-care? Examine how you might be able to makes changes there too.
BONUS: Connect With Fellow Sisters + Explore More Endo Resources
You are not alone in this disease. There are so many fellow endo sufferers speaking up and sharing with other women in amazing ways! I especially love This Endo Life and the podcast, The Uterus + The Duderus.
Endo What? is an amazing documentary about endometriosis and The Doctor Will See You Now is a powerful and informational book about the latest research on endo. Seek out new resources frequently. There is research coming out every year.
Have any of you struggled with endometriosis? I’d love to hear about your experiences and any lifestyle changes that have helped you better your relationship with the condition in the comments.
Jessica Murnane is a wellness advocate, podcast host, creator of the One Part Plant movement, and author of the new cookbook of the same name. She has a certification in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and works to raise awareness for endometriosis and women’s health issues. She interviews some of the biggest names in food, lifestyle, and design on the popular One Part Podcast. She lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, son, and lots of palm trees.
All photographs in this post were taken by the uber-talented Nicole Franzin.