I’ve always had a hard time with stories of radical transformation.
I’m talking about the kind that’s celebrated on the covers of my favorite trashy airport magazines.
The Kirsty Alleys, the Jennifer Hudsons. The Ricky Lakes. Not to mention, the Oprahs…
Sure, there are plenty of makeover stories—healing stories even—that don’t have anything to do with weight. But most of the before and after photos in the cultural zeitgeist do.
That this alone is something to celebrate, is problematic for me. But the part that has really tugged at my heartstrings over the years is what happens when the weight comes back. When the transformation unravels. When in addition to your personal disappointment, your private shame in the face of the scale, you have to deal with that painful failure in the public eye.
My transformation story, of course, is very different. It didn’t involve side by side bikini pictures in People Magazine, and it played out in front of millions fewer people–the public forum of this intimate community. But I very much had these people—the biggest losers and winners of celebrity culture—in the back of my mind as I decided how I wanted to tell it.
Most of these people likely have not yet read the book. They haven’t made it through 300 pages about the nature of autoimmune disease. Have not gotten to the epilogue in which I dismiss the notion that becoming fully healed was ever a possibility. Have not learned that my wellness project—and yours by extension—is only the beginning.
The answer I give these people is not the one they want to hear. It’s not one that becomes PR headlines. It’s one, that frankly, has probably cost me a lot of books sold. But it’s a truthful answer. One that refuses to perpetuate the transformation myth. One that will never make me feel like a failure if one day my body doesn’t do what it’s asked.
Being a human being means that my body will always have to weather the bumps and bruises that life throws my way. And being someone with an autoimmune disease means that I may always be a little more sensitive to change or need a beat to recalibrate.
So how is my body feeling two years since I put an unofficial bookend on my wellness story? Since I meditated, detoxed, pantry purged, hydrated and slept my way back to much better (if not perfect) health?
That’s what we’re supposed to being talking about in this two year recap, not Kirsty Alley, right?
Well, now that I’ve managed your expectations, let me tell you that the wellness toolkit I built in 2015 served me well this year.
The process of bringing this book into the world was a total whirlwind, emotionally and physically.
Writing it was one of the biggest intellectual challenges of my life, and in the months leading up to launch, I was crippled with imposter syndrome. I surrendered as best I could, but it was hard to let go of the fear that people would not like it, and by extension, me.
As if to wear my mind down and force myself to jump into that fear abyss head first, I planned an insane book tour that had me more or less on the road for three months. It was as if I’d forgotten everything I’d learned during my project when it came to the schedule of promoting it.
Despite setting myself up for complete and utter burnout, I managed to weather the exhaustion of constant travel, the sensory overload of both good and bad reviews, and the terror of public speaking. My adrenals were tired, but intact. My immune system managed to ward off seasonal colds and other germs from the sick people around me.
This seemed like a small miracle for anyone, let alone someone with my swollen thyroid and sensitive system! But I had all my newish habits to thank for getting me through.
That said, there were still a few symptoms buzzing in the background that kept me from feeling at the top of my game. Improving my digestion was one of the biggest wins of my year of wellness, but earlier in 2017, it started to take a turn.
After all the discomfort I suffered in the past, being a little more bloated than usual didn’t seem like that big a deal. And once the launch got under way, it was easy to chalk up any irritability to time zone changes, being away from my home bathroom, and the deep, corrosive effects of stress on all of my systems.
This fall though, after the tour was winding down to its last few appearances, I decided it was high time I go back to the doctor.
I talked a little bit about my insurance situation on Instagram last week. It’s a subject I wish I had discussed more openly in the book. To give you a sense of how my coverage dictated a lot of my choices over the last few years, here’s the cliff’s notes.
Exactly two years ago as I began laying the bricks for my project, I finally got kicked off my parents amazing insurance. The out-of-network coverage was one of the reasons I had been able to see so many functional medicine practitioners over the years, who rarely take insurance. Knowing I would have to pay out of pocket for all my appointments was one reason why I wanted to put in the work and take my health into my own hands.
Over the last two years, I’ve been getting my healthcare through Oscar on the ACA exchange. I’ve also been a member of One Medical, where I get a basic physical once a year and am able to do bloodwork every quarter. I get a full thyroid panel and check a few other key nutrients (B12, ferratin, vitamin D), and I see my acupuncturist Heidi Lovie (who’s a doctor and Hashimoto’s specialist) periodically to check in and go over the results.
But after two years of maintaining things with the basics, I felt it was worth the money (and it’s a lot…) to go to a functional medicine doctor for a full work-up and to see if there was anything going on beyond stress.
Long story short, earlier this month I got many of the tests back, and it turns out I have SIBO: small intestine bacterial overgrowth.
I won’t go too much into detail about what this is, not because of the ick factor, but because this recap is already becoming a book in and of itself.
In hindsight, a lot of my symptoms made complete sense. Worrying that I may have picked up some bad bacterial hombres, I made sure to eat my daily probiotic-rich fermented veggies and lots of plant fiber. But I noticed more bloating after some of my favorite healthy vegetables and legumes. This, it turns out, is because the healthy bacteria I was trying to support and feed, was hanging out in the wrong area of my body.
Now, the mission for the next few months is to try to kill it naturally. To do so, I’ll be on another crazy regimen of supplements (good news is I’ve gotten a much cuter pill case than the one I used three years ago!) and a strict low-FODMAP diet. I’ll share more about SIBO and my whole treatment plan once I’ve hammered it out in the new year.
But I wanted to tell you where I’m at and how I feel about it…which is FINE.
I know that no setbacks that come my way undo or negate any of the hard work I’ve put in and the progress I’ve made. I don’t feel like a failure, and I hope that should you ever slide back a few steps on the trail up Health Mountain, you don’t either.
The truth is that most crazy transformations don’t last a lifetime. Even the less crazy ones, may have a hiccup every few years. At some point in your life, you’re likely to gain the weight back, have a face full of breakouts, feel strung out, fall off the wagon.
That’s ok. It happens. And you’ll still be loved.
What I found for myself through the wellness project, and what I hope that I can help others achieve through my new program, is not mind-blowing transformation or complete healing. It’s a clear path forward, wherever that may lead.
As someone very wise in my course beta group wrote: change is uncomfortable. It’s also a huge source of knowledge and clues.
Believe it or not, I’m excited to start this next trek in the New Year. And I’m grateful for this loving community to share my experiences with, stumbles and all.