You know that light at the end of the tunnel? Well, it took me a long time, but I finally found it! I’ve spent a few years healing my body from the inside out, and today I can genuinely say I’ve made enormous, tangible progress. But I’ll be honest: I spent at least half of that time fumbling around in the tunnel, bumping into the walls, and sometimes found myself going in the totally opposite direction of the light at the end.
Why? Well, for a lot of reasons. One is that I was really just starting to learn about health, nutrition and biology. I was taking in a ton of information that I had no idea how to use. Every guru was telling me something different, and sometimes I felt like I was being pulled by the arms in opposite directions!
So I did the dance of two-steps-forward-one-step-back for several years while I was sorting through all of this contradicting advice. Sometimes I made physical progress while seeming to go backwards emotionally, and sometimes vice versa.
But in the last two years, one thing became increasingly clearer to me: listening to my body and its biofeedback is the only real way to figure out what works for me.
I mean, think about it, there are tons of different diet plans and exercise plans and everything plans out there, and every plan has its own set of devoted fans and equally passionate haters. Clearly, different things are working for different people (of course, the definition of “working” is relative, too).
- I realized I didn’t want what worked for a neighbor or a friend or a distant relative. I wanted what worked for me and my body and my life.
This realization took the healing process to a new level for me. It was incredibly empowering to realize that I could make the decision about what worked for me and what didn’t based on my own set of priorities, rather than needing “permission” from a book or a guru or a chart of numbers. I kept what worked and got rid of what didn’t. And that has been the biggest key to my success so far.
1. I can sleep!
I used to have so much trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. I was literally in tears many nights because I was so frustrated with not being able to sleep. I was really lucky to get 5-6 hours of sleep most nights. It was a vicious cycle of stress, anxiety and insomnia.
But fortunately, I eventually overcame my poor sleep habits by making sleep a priority, and by making general changes in my life and diet that keep stress hormones from creeping to chronically high levels (I found a balanced bedtime snack to be very helpful!). Now I’m off to dreamland within a few minutes, fall back asleep quickly if I wake up, and average 7-9 hours of sleep per night consistently.
2. No naps required.
On the same note as above, getting plenty of sleep has totally eliminated my need for naps! I used to feel like a zombie starting at about one o’clock in the afternoon, and the feeling wouldn’t go away without a good nap.
Now I never even think about needing a nap! Okay, that’s not the whole truth, occasionally I do love to relish a good nap on the weekends. But not requiring a nap every single day has definitely made life easier!
3. Stable blood sugar.
I used to crash 30-60 minutes after every single meal. It didn’t matter if the meal was low-calorie, high-calorie, low-carb, high-protein, whatever. I never failed to feel shaky and weak within an hour of eating. I had to always carry around something to nibble on just in case I started to crash.
Now I can typically go hours between meals if I need to without it being a big deal (except of course getting hungry after a while!). Balanced meals with some fat, protein and carbs helps, but again, it was the basic principle of preventing high stress hormone levels that seems to have had the most pronounced effect.
And in case you were wondering, I didn’t get this way by eating low-carb! In fact, I distinctly remember some of my worst crashes occurring during my low-carb phase in 2009. Today, I definitely eat plenty of carbs (including fruit and grains), but I do balance it all out with protein and fat, too.
4. Clearer skin.
Ah, acne. My old arch nemesis. We’ve had an on again, off again relationship since I was 12 years old, but believe me when I say I’ve wanted to break it off for good for a looooong time. My skin has always experienced the most improvement when I was totally focused on nourishing my body, so eventually I started putting the pieces together.
Keeping stress hormones low has turned out to be a super critical key for eliminating my adult acne. Stress (especially intense emotional stress–or dieting, of all things) makes my skin flare up like nobody’s business. But with an overall approach aimed at minimizing stress as much as I can, for the last year or two my breakouts have been rare and much less intense than they used to be. (I did totally have to quit dieting, which I talk about more below.)
5. Stronger nails.
Growing up, my fingernails were always weak and split easily. I could never grow them very long before they would split and break. I always wanted long nails, but it just didn’t seem to be in the cards for me.
I didn’t go about nourishing my metabolism with the intention of having more beautiful nails, but it has been a pleasant side effect! Now my nails are strong and grow so fast I actually have to keep on top of them with the nail clippers or they get in the way of typing and playing my guitar!
6. Brighter moods.
I’ll be straight with you: I’m no Pollyanna, but it’s much easier for me to see the glass half full now than it used to be. I laugh at my own mistakes a lot more–well, I actually just tend to laugh a lot more in general. In fact, since it’s said that laughing might help you live longer, it’s an ongoing joke between me and my husband that I’m going to live to be 150 years old! But even if I don’t live half that long, I sure am having a lot more fun along the way.
I also tend to handle stress a lot better now, too. I used to fall apart at the slightest obstacle, but now I can hang in a little stronger through those rough patches life inevitably throws at us from time to time.
7. More energy.
A few years ago, just getting out of bed felt like too much work. I was just shuffling through my daily life trying to get the bare minimum done. I even had to stop working online for about a year because I felt so stressed out and exhausted.
Healing my metabolism and restoring my health gave me the energy to start writing again, which led me to start this blog in 2009. Since then, I’ve also started homeschooling my two kids, opened a business with my husband, and even wrote an eBook earlier this year! So, yeah, I’m able to take on tasks that seemed insurmountable to me a few years ago, which has really affected my whole life in some unexpected (but awesome) ways!
8. Vanishing PMS.
A few years ago, I was plagued with PMS so bad I lived in fear of the two weeks before my period (and I’m pretty sure the rest of my family did, too!). I was an angry, moody, tired, emotional wreck for no less than half of every month. Some months it felt like the PMS never stopped, which can really start to make you feel a little unhinged. This crippling PMS was one of the main reasons I originally made the decision to prioritize getting healthy.
My PMS started to ease up within the first few months of finally taking care of myself, but there were a lot of bad months mixed in with the good months back then. I finally made a lot more progress in the past 1-2 years when I’ve focused specifically on lowering stress hormones. I’m still not all sunshine and rainbows the week before my period, but let me tell you the difference is night and day.
9. Cashew allergy–gone!
I developed a very weird allergy to cashews after giving birth to my daughter in 2004. I had never been allergic to anything in my life, and suddenly eating cashew butter made my lips swell up like oozing, itching balloons. Yeah, it was totally gross. (What’s really bad is it took more than one awful reaction for me to put two and two together. Not a fun month for me!)
After healing my metabolism, I can actually eat cashews again with no problem whatsoever. Which is nice, because I happen to think cashews paired with chocolate is a mind-blowing combination.
(I hope it goes without saying that I am not in any way recommending you start eating foods you’re allergic to! This is was just my personal experience.)
10. Exercise is fun!
Funny thing, once you start nourishing your body with balanced meals and plenty of sleep, exercise suddenly becomes more enjoyable! Who knew?
Plus, instead of feeling like a slave to the treadmill, I learned to do the exercise I love and that my body loves–which for me, happens to be a combination of weight training, yoga and long walks outside. I used to waste so much time doing hours of cardio exercise that I hated (or hating it so much that I didn’t exercise at all), but now I keep my workouts short and sweet, and I love how they make my body feel.
11. Stable weight, sans dieting.
During the last year, I’ve maintained my weight within a 2-3 lb range without ever dieting. This comes from the girl who has been either dieting or gaining since I was 13 years old. I realized last year that I had no idea how to maintain my weight. All I knew was one extreme or the other. I decided right then and there that I needed to focus on nourishing my body, while also learning how to let go of my tumultuous relationship with food so I could learn to eat in a more balanced way.
Nourishing my metabolism and learning to listen to my body has allowed me to break free from my obsessions with food, calories, and weight, so that I could finally let go of the restrict-and-repent cycle. Now I just eat, without spending too much effort worrying about food. And dieting? That’s so last year.
12. I love my body!
During the past few years, I’ve been everywhere from a size 4 to a size 14 (like I said, all I knew was dieting or gaining!). Right now I maintain a constant size 10, which I’ll readily admit isn’t my dream size. But after spending years battling with food and my body, it was high time to do things differently. So I ditched the futile search for a “magical” weight loss cure, put the focus on nourishing myself and developing a healthy relationship with food… and then something kind of magical happened: I learned to love my body!
As it turns out, through learning to nourish my body with good food, better sleep, and smart exercise, I also learned how awesome my body is when I take care of it. It’s healthy, curvy, strong, capable, and uniquely mine.
The more I appreciate my body, the easier it is to take care of it. And the more I take care of it, the easier it is to appreciate it! It’s really nice to be part of this positive cycle, rather than the negative roller coaster I was stuck on for years.
Nourishing Yourself is a Journey
The beginning of my journey was kind of a bumpy ride because I thought I had to do something extreme to get my health back in order. I thought I had to cut out food groups, or eat a low-carb diet, or go on a juice fast, or eat only raw fruits and veggies… but every time I tried one of these “solutions” it only made all my problems resurface. Soon I realized that these extremes weren’t the solution–they were the problem!
A little common sense, some simple consistency, a touch of moderation, and a balanced perspective ended up being the winning combination for me–and of course, learning to actually slow down and listen to my body.
I’ll be totally straight up with you: I am not perfect or superhuman in any way whatsoever. I still have the occasional night of fitful sleep, I still lose my temper sometimes, and from time to time I still break a finger nail for no apparent reason. Life isn’t perfect, and I don’t expect it to be. But I can say with 100% certainty that my health and my life is way better than it used to be! And to me, that says a lot.
My best advice to anyone starting a journey to good health is to forget the extreme approach and try the balanced approach to nourishing your body instead.
I wrote The Nourished Metabolism because I spent way too many years confused by all the different health gurus, instead of just learning to listen to my intuition and my body.
If you’re looking for a simple, common-sense approach to healing your metabolism, I really think you’ll enjoy this book.