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.
One of the questions I’ve gotten most out on the road and via email is: Have you managed to heal your Hashimoto’s? In other words, did the project work?
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.
It has been fantastic to read your work (blog and book!) over the last few years! I feel like I am a few steps behind you in almost every way (yeay? haha!). This is encouraging to me to hear and so glad you shared! Would love to hear more about your discovery of SIBO as I was literally researching it yesterday and am reaching out to a functional medicine doc soon too. Keep up the great work and please keep sharing it!
Phoebe Lapine says
Well, there are some ways I wish you didn’t have to follow in my footsteps! But I’m happy that I can provide a clearer path for you. Will definitely have a more comprehensive SIBO post in the new year once I’m clearer on my treatment strategy and have done sufficient (read: crazy) research. xo
Looking forward to the post and wishing you well!! You’ve come so far and done so much to improve your lifestyle (and help others!) that it’s clear you can do it! Good luck!
Phoebe Lapine says
Thank you Anne!
“That’s ok. It happens. And you’ll still be loved.” Ugh. Tears.
Thank you for sharing in such an honest way. I used to do a lot of discussions for my job about change and why it is so hard and uncomfortable. And I learned/used to say that change is hard because it involves a sense of loss: of the familiar, of traditions, of, as you say in your book, being the “cool girl.” I mean, I’m Italian, so food equals family, warmth, history, welcome, and so much more. It also means a lot of gluten. It’s been hard for me to be ok with “losing” that part of myself. Anyway, a bit of a tangent, but I appreciate this idea that the journey isn’t perfect. I think especially in this world of constant and in-your-face media, it’s hard to remember that. So thank you.
Phoebe Lapine says
No, thank YOU, Cate. You’re so right on, and beautifully put. With every healthy reinvention we have to mourn the loss of our old self. Even if it seems silly to be doing that over the absence of fresh pasta. I’m not Italian, and I totally had to do that. Sending you love, and know that your writing feeds me too. xo
Shelby D. says
My love!! I have SIBO too, and did the low-FODMAP diet. If I can support you in any way I am here for you!! You’ve got this. You’re so smart and disciplined. Remember, short term sacrifice, long term gain!
Phoebe Lapine says
Thank you Shelby!! Notes like these make me feel so optimistic and encouraged. I’m feeling good about the next steps and digging into the particulars over the next few weeks. It’s not a crazy case, so I’m confident I’ll beat it!!
Thank you for sharing!. I have dealt with similar digestion issues for years, but they have recently become much more aggressive. Prior to reading your post, I had never heard of SIBO but the symptoms align with what I”m experiencing. Can you share which functional medicine doctor is treating you? I also live in NYC and have no idea where to start!
Phoebe Lapine says
yes – sorry for the delay! I’m going to put together a list of practitioners in NYC. At the moment, I am seeing Dr Beer who I like so far and he’s the one who got me to do the SIBO test. Parsley Health is another great option. More to come!
Little Cooking Tips says
Hi Phoebe! Thank you for sharing your life’s journey with all of us.
Let us share our view, in case it might help. One of this things that we found ourselves working good, is eating everything in moderation. For instance, we love legumes, but only cook them about once every 10 days, be it beans, lentils, quinoa or chickpeas. This allows the bowel to relax a bit from the hard work one puts it through, to process these. The same goes with yogurt (not everyday or two, but every 3-4 days) or milk. Or eggs. We try to change the things we eat so that there’s a variation of foods that our bodies have to process. We aren’t experts of course, just wanted to say what we found working better in our case, as -especially Panos- has an sensitive bowel and I have issues with the stomach (healed ulcers and issues with hiatial hernia. That’s why we have to be a bit strict and careful with what we cook and when we cook them.
We love your optimistic view on life and the way you deal with hardships. Kudos!
Sending you our love, hugs, and our warmest wishes for the New Year sweetheart.
Bridget Wall says
Ugh, heavens, lady. I think one of the hardest lessons I keep learning is that balance is an active, on-going, never-ending process. And that usually frustrates me, but when I remember that everyone is going through some version of the same thing, it feels a little less lonely.
Best wishes as you deal with this new curveball!
Phoebe Lapine says
so well put. I hear you. thank you for reading! xo
Ricky Lane DDS says
Amazing story Phoebe Lapine, and I must say its really inspiring in many ways. Good Luck for the wonderful journey ahead.
Phoebe Lapine says
thank you Ricky! means a lot