Who doesn’t love Success Stories? Mary writes about stomach pain, fatigue, bloat, belching, back pain, weight loss and food sensitivities. Sound familiar? She’s resolved all of it with smart nutrition: Real Whole Food, avoiding foods that irritate her gut, supplementing her digestion, and focusing on what makes her feel good and what makes her feel bad. Here’s her story:
For years, I ignored the signs. It was always there, waiting to be discovered, but I never put much thought into it. Eventually I started to piece it together, but even then I was missing the motivation to do anything about it. It was much easier to dismiss everything and proceed as usual. If I go back into my history far enough, I would say it began with a doctor’s appointment when I was still in my 20’s. I was on the table being examined for a run-of-the-mill physical or chest cold. The physician was checking my heart and we both noticed my middle abdomen thumping to the beat of my heart. It was so weird, you could see it plainly. He put his hand on me and it was moving, bumping up and down. It looked as if my heart was in my belly.
A few years later, I was in with my chiropractor, who is an astute healer. He too, noticed my hard stomach and obvious discomfort. It was easy to dismiss with the recollection that I had eaten half a box of Kraft Macaroni late the night before and had skipped breakfast aside from my morning cup of joe (extra half/half.) Nonetheless, he encouraged me to consider that I may have food allergies…dairy in particular. He asked me to do two things, reduce my sugar intake because he detected I had an abundance of yeast, and to eliminate dairy from my diet.
I was open to the first, for sure, but give up dairy? Entirely? I had already reduced it in a lot of ways. I never drank much milk, and I knew ice cream sometimes turned my stomach. But his timing was really bad, because I had just purchased a huge load of groceries, with gourmet cheeses, and heavy cream and sandwich Havarti. This idea of going dairy free was going to have to wait a month because I was not throwing out $50 worth of dairy. No way.
I also developed eczema sometime during college. Looking back, it all started back then. I went to the Doc and received a hydrocortisone Rx and it was on again, off again for years. When I finally quit drinking coffee and changed my soaps it went away for a number of years. I went back to the dermatologist two or three years ago for a horrible rash on my fingers and got a tube of steroid cream. I pressed him for insight on what could be causing this outbreak and he just dismissed it too. Use the meds. They worked.
The next sign was much harder to dismiss. Back Pain. I noticed it the most during my yoga workouts. Pain in my low back, hip, tailbone, sometimes down in my leg. It was almost always exacerbated by exercise. I attributed it to my hips being out-of-whack due to pregnancy and child birth and figured that eventually, it would go away. But it did not go away. So then I attributed it to carrying my baby on the same hip all the time.
I spent the entire month of December going to the Chiropractor three times a week, usually right after my Yoga class, for regular adjustments. It was time to put everything back into place and if that didn’t work, then I’ll try massage. I was committed to getting myself put back together so I could get back into working out to my full ability. It didn’t work. Neither methodology worked. One of my massage therapists pointed to my sciatica. I’m 35 years old. My SCIATICA? Are you serious? Those stretches never worked. I was resigned to feeling this way, defeated by my own age and body.
Thankfully the timing was right for me to meet with Debbie Abbott, Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner.
But first let me back up one more time. I have known Debbie for years. She was my instructor the very first week I joined Old Town Athletic Club and started taking “yoga-ilates” style classes. My motivation was, not surprisingly, a New Year’s Resolution to “start stretching regularly.” I am not a big fitness person. I like to swim, but at the time, there was no gym available with an indoor pool, so I toured the Club and joined. From then until now my routine remains the same. I take Centergy (Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates) three days per week. That is all I ever do.
This journey is and was never about weight loss for me. Thankfully, I don’t agonize over weight and battle with food. I just like to better myself and I like to feel good. I notice that when I am working out, I tend to eat better and sleep better and for me, that is why I do it. I lost a little weight when I first joined, and then all bets were off when I had my two children. I pretty much weighed the same prior to my children as I did after. I am lucky my tall frame stretches everything over pretty well. And the low intensity yoga workouts were a welcome part of my weekly routine and have helped me maintain my weight.
So Debbie and I see each other once, sometimes twice a week on a regular basis. And may I just interject here and say that Debbie is easily one of the MOST cheerful, happy people I have ever met. She is so positive and she seems to really care, sincerely. She often begins or ends her class with a little tidbit, a golden kernel of knowledge or wisdom she’d picked up from somewhere that week. She is and was a teacher and healer even way back when.
She used to dispense what I would describe as our little ‘minute-clinics’ before or after class. I would complain about this or that and she would offer insight on what to do or try. I remember mentioning to her that I always fasted before class, because I felt my performance and ability was greater when I had not eaten anything beforehand.
Another time, I complained about ‘my sciatica’ and how it was preventing me from certain poses, and taking on more vigorous work outs and that I was discouraged that I had not the same ability before my pregnancies as I was experiencing after them. I just could not get over the hump, despite my weight/body rebounding in due time.
Thankfully, one day, she pulled me aside and asked that we meet for nutrition counseling. I was complaining that my belly was always hard when I was in a prone position (face down on the mat) during the Pilates back exercises. Sometimes, so much so, that I would not participate in the exercise at all. She brought up food allergies and also mentioned the words “leaky gut” which I promptly googled.
We set up a time and she sent me a link to a questionnaire that covered all topics from diet, to sleep, to moods, to sex, to digestion. She compiled the insight and I came to the consult armed with a recent blood test, a bag full of supplements, a blank notebook and about two pages of questions for her.
For all reading this, I recommend that you absolutely take my advice and do the same for yourself. I cannot begin to tell you how important this meeting was for me and how long overdue it was. Nutritional Therapy changed my life.
I met one-on-one with Debbie for just under two hours. It was jam packed with all her ‘golden kernels’ of insight. She ought take the surname Redenbacher for the quality and density of what she puts into her consultations and wellness classes, but I digress. She sat me down and told me that almost all the red flags in my answers on the survey pointed to ‘problems in my upper-digestion.’ She took a pen and paper and showed me what was supposed to happen, what wasn’t happening, and began to crack the seal on what I could do to make it better. We also talked a lot about glucose, blood sugar, and how it works through the human body. It is worth mentioning now that I had a very healthy diet to begin with, my weight was good and my blood work was all excellent. Our pursuit was not improvement in these areas, but more about feeling better, stronger, and free of the chronic discomfort I was experiencing. I asked her point blank what I could and should do and she outlined about four or five things to try straight away.
One was to eliminate gluten from my diet. Though I did not have leaky gut nor did I have Celiac’s or a serious allergy to gluten, she thought there was definitely enough of a sensitivity that it was not good for me. (In hindsight, I feel as though I was slowly poisoning my body with wheat and other grains, and it would not have been long before I DID have leaky gut or worse.)
The second was to remove all dairy from my diet…everything…for a temporary amount of time. She encouraged me to let my body ‘heal’ and reset and that perhaps in a few months’ time, I could try to re-introduce dairy and its many benefits back into my regular diet.
She prescribed me to take 4 new Natural supplements. She told me what to get and where to get them. This is when I pulled my bag of nutrition supplements up on the table and started showing her all the different things my Doctor, Gynecologist, Chiropractor etc. had persuaded me to take over the years. It was 8 or 10 different things. She looked at me and said not to take any of it.
“Are you sure? Not even a multivitamin? Seriously?” And her reply was, “don’t take anything for a month and see how you feel. Take the stuff I recommend, and cut out the foods we talked about and see how it goes for a month.” I felt liberated. Hell yeah, I don’t have to sit down at a table and take 15 horse pills every morning. Yeehaw! She was so right. Boy was she right. With these new supplements, I could get all the goodness out the foods I was already eating. It made a huge difference in a lot of ways.
Here’s what did, and in some cases, didn’t happen to me in one month:
I started feeling GREAT. I mean great. Call it placebo effect if you want, but I went into my yoga classes feeling typically the same and leaving feeling like The Hulk. All of the sudden I was able to do those extremely hard balance poses, and I was able to rock out a Pilates Core workout with sweat dripping off my forehead only ramping up the energy and stamina with each new attempt. I felt like I had a new body!
My back pain withered away to completely unnoticeable. That helped me to grow stronger…to get back into those core strength poses I had been missing for years.
I stopped needing a nap. I mean stopped. I used to take a 2-3 hour nap a couple times a week when my kids were down or when my husband was home to watch them. Especially after a big deli sandwich with baguette and cheese. One of those knocked me down like clockwork for a long midday slumber. Now, I have so much energy, I cannot fall asleep if I try.
Cravings were gone. When I gave up gluten, I started eating more meat and veggies. One of the supplements she turned me on to was instrumental in allowing me to process red meat and hard to digest proteins. It was amazing. I could eat this huge steak and pig out on veggies! I started eating all these foods I had previously denied myself. I almost never got hungry between meals. My blood sugar cozied on down to the perfect level where I felt fine all day. No spikes and crashes. If I was busy and couldn’t stop to eat a meal, a tiny snack was enough to tide me over. Before I would have grabbed any carbo in sight and mashed it in my face to stave off my hunger pangs and jitters.
A smoothie actually became enough to comprise an entire meal. Before, I would not have been sated. Not without a half sandwich or some chicken salad with it or something else. My body was somehow reconditioned to require less food at any given meal provided that my other meals were nutrient rich and substantial enough to satiate my appetite. I didn’t want those salty crunchy starchy foods anymore. The impulse just went away after a few months’ time. My brain finally stopped giving me that impulse to go grab a bag of pita chips at 9pm.
Another unexpected perk was the complete absence of belching and indigestion. My husband would always complain about me burping during meals, but I honestly couldn’t help it. I mean, how do you keep in a burp without making your stomach even more upset? On my new plan, burping was a thing of the past…instantly! By the way, if you burp during meals, YOU HAVE FOOD ALLERGIES!!
Something I didn’t expect was the overall improvement of my immune system. I used to get sick all the time. I would have sinusitis multiple times every winter. I would get chest colds, and I always suffered through whatever my kids brought home with them from school. Amazingly, I get sick a lot less. When I do get sick, it is for only a week instead of three or more.
Top to bottom my body is performing so much better in every possible way. I feel better, I look better. My body is getting the fuel it needs with better choices and improved digestion. I am more productive. I am stronger physically. This is not a fitness thing. This is just from better nutrition. Young and old, overweight or trim, we all need this.
A year and a half later I still feel great. I am stronger than ever. And the bonus everyone envies… I lost 20 lbs. I actually weigh less than I did when I was in high school on the volleyball team. I believe that I currently weigh what I SHOULD weigh. The perfect, fit and healthy weight for Mary. I am minus the birth control weight, the college beer and munchies weight, the pregnancy boob gain. I lost the chin and the midsection ‘cottage cheese’ and my husband can’t take his hands off of me.
I went to the clinic for my physical a year after starting my new regimen. My blood work was practically identical despite the fact that I eat eggs every other morning, and steaks and that I dump butter and coconut oil into and on everything I cook, eat or drink. Triglycerides were about the same. I had the same overall cholesterol count but I switched 8 points from Sith (LDL) to Jedi (HDL). Not that I care about cholesterol anymore. Through her blogs and classes I have come to view cholesterol in a whole new light. The best thing Debbie taught me on this subject was something she learned from another health professional. “Blaming high cholesterol for death due to heart disease is like blaming the fire fighters for the fire.” If you are confused about this, then you need to take one of her classes.
As far as weight loss, after one year my doc recorded I had lost 17 lbs, weigh in to weigh in. I’ve since dropped three more. I am not obsessive about weight but I think it demonstrates the transformation in a relatable way. I never liked scales before. I didn’t trust them, because I would get on it one day and it would say 168 and then the next day it would say 162. I hated that. I felt like I didn’t even have a TRUE weight because it fluctuated so much day to day. I put no stock in it at all. We bought a scale for shipping and now when I get on it, it seems to be more convincing. I can stand on it when I am feeling super fat (yeah, as a woman I still have those days) and again when I am feeling super slim and it always reads the same. What happened to all that water weight, well I guess it went wherever the gluten went to die. I’ll take that 148! I even let it blink five times and then go solid just to enjoy the moment.
I’ve given up a lot of things I love to get to this point. (read BEER) And I would say that I have excellent discipline, but I could not have gotten to this point without Debbie Abbott as my guide and motivator. Her blog is not to be missed. Not only does she help me to understand all the confusion and misinformation about diet and nutrition, but she is really funny. One of my favorites is about the origins of Crisco and the advent of margarine. It had me practically cheering after I read it, “Stick it to em’ Debbie!” Her series “Looks Healthy But It Isn’t” is so insightful. She shares her struggles too, which is such a great way to relate to people and encourage them.
Nutrition counseling was such a wakeup call. I am so grateful for Debbie’s direction and insight. She has done so much to change the way I feel about food, how I cook, how I plan meals, how I snack or space out my meals. I read her blog and I continue to learn so much. She always preaches about how you can’t view your diet and nutrition in terms of calories in and calories expended. She taught me that you can’t ‘burn fat’ and that dieting, in all its forms and variations, is so temporary. Rather, the ideology is to CHANGE YOUR BRAIN about food.
If you want to learn more you have to educate yourself on whole foods. Lean toward Paleo, but don’t go all the way lest you become frustrated. Identify any allergies you may have. You have to educate yourself on fats, and blood sugar, and GMO, and gluten, and soy. We all know that processed food is bad for us. But perhaps the difference between me and you, is that I have decided that, as much as I would like the taste of that Banquet Pot Pie on my tongue, the winning argument for me is how disgusting that food really is with its chemicals and its sodium and sickening processed chicken. For me, it is not about will power anymore–Standing up to the foods or whatever. It is more a change in my view of said foods. Ignorance IS bliss. And you can decide to stay right where you are. But the more I learn, the more I run far far away from things that are bad for me.
This is my body. It is perfect. It takes care of me. And yet, for years I did not respect it. I abused it with spikes and crashes in my blood sugar, with caffeine and alcohol. I slowly poisoned and ruined my digestive tract with inflammatory foods. I put it off. I dismissed it. I excused it. I didn’t really care until I finally got to the point where enough is enough. Lucky for me, I was only 35 years old. Move on from there and you might not be able to undo all of the damage. Debbie taught me all of this. She put me on the path of discovery and RECOVERY. That is when and where real change can occur.
She was like this ‘Nutrition Tarot Card Reader.’ I came to her, and we put all the cards on the table. We talked about each card. She took some away, she put some new ones on the table. In the process, she eliminated a lot of the confusion I had and buttressed what I was doing right with a few essential cards I had been missing and it all clicked in to place, Finally! It was like she knew all along but she recognized I had to process my ‘reading’ for myself for it to really make sense and carry me forward.
It is so easy. It requires some effort in the beginning, and self-control. It requires you to reformat a lot of your processes when it comes to shopping, dining out, cooking and putting meals together. But I can honestly say that I eat like a HOG. I mean, I am seriously not on a diet here. And we’ve arrived at the dreaded words where everyone stops reading….I Eat Whatever I Want.
Can this be true? Hell Yeah. Because you know what? I respect my body now. I will not puncture the lining of my gut or overrun my bloodstream with damaging insulin. I have no desire to eat a frozen pot pie. Lasagna for dinner at a friend house? Hopefully there is a salad, or if not, I have an apple and some nuts in the car. Sure, I miss Coronas and Mojitos, but I finally figured out that I get that horrible rash on my fingers from squeezing the limes. What do you think it is doing to my insides? Those days are over for me. The cleaner I eat, the more easily I now read the signs. I have an allergy to citrus. Yeah, it is a bummer. But I am done ignoring it. This is my one perfect body. I am not about to make it suffer.
When you change your mind this way, it becomes so liberating in other ways. Yeah, so I can’t have citrus, but now I can experiment with pineapple or cranberry in my cocktails. I can’t have mac n cheese. Well, when I am desperate, I can find a gluten free version and the realm is once again at peace. Dinner? I will grill a fat ribeye and not feel a bit bad about it, and it won’t keep me up all night with indigestion. No cheese on that broccoli, how ‘bout a tablespoon of Kerry Gold BUTTER? Oh yeah.
The box is all in how you look at it. In my case, I win some, I lose some but either way I am doing what is best for me and my perfect body…my perfectly designed body. My miracle of a body, given to me by God. I will take care of it. I will not ignore it anymore. I will work to improve it in every way that I can. I will teach my children the same. I am grateful to Debbie for helping me tip the scales and for guiding me to find a way to make it work for me. I’m certainly not perfect. I cheat on some things (dairy) and I stand firm on others (beer) but in the end, it has worked for me. I found a way for it to work. Swapping one thing for another, or selecting the lesser of two evils.
I am a shining example of what can be done, and conversely what can be undone. I have more to do and much to aspire for with Debbie Abbott as my example. I don’t see myself undertaking as many things as she does to stay healthy, but I know where to turn when I am ready to step it up in my own journey. Her knowledge and enthusiasm are always available to me. I think that, as a Nutritionist, because she began as a fitness instructor/trainer, she has this very welcoming means of getting you on board. She truly wants to build a better you. Because of your trust in her, she is invested in it…in the overall improvement of YOU. She wants you to make small changes and realize your goals in a manageable way and once you get there, you can decide to step it up a little more. Like adding more weight, or increasing your stamina bit by bit until you feel Supremely Awesome, like I do now, thanks to her.