My Health Journey

My health journey was one of pain, frustration, and revelation of what it truly means to be intentional with and honor God with every part of my life, to walk in full surrender to Christ, and to find freedom.

Sophomore year of college (spring 2014) was the dramatic turning point in my health journey. I found myself very physically unhealthy after getting food poisoning which triggered IBS-D (irritable bowel syndrome with increased diarrhea). On its own, this trigger may not have affected me as intensely as it did if I had a stronger foundation. However, several years of hormonal imbalances leading to what’s termed hypothalamic amenorrhea (or a loss of menstrual cycle), was compounded on an overall SAD (Standard American Diet) diet and lifestyle growing up. I ate decent, but loved my fill of dairy, refined carbs, and sugar. Along with other lifestyle factors, my gut had the perfect scenario for bad bacteria to take over. At this point, I had taken interest in studying nutrition and had made some changes to my dietary patterns to which I thought I was doing the whole “nutrition thing” well.

What seemed like an overnight occurrence, I wasn’t able to digest certain foods well, ones I had been able to eat without issues even just a week prior. My new normal after eating became intense cramps, bloating, and gas. A “lovely” addition was diarrhea, which became a part of my routine every morning.

By this point I had cut out dairy, gluten, and processed foods. My overall diet was comprised of whole foods and a lot of vegetables, BUT, and a big but, I was not absorbing the much-needed nutrients because my gut was such a mess. I felt horrible almost all of the time. Not only did I not want to eat, because I knew I would probably feel sick not long after, but I isolated myself as much as I could. It was hard. Seriously hard. Never had I felt so horrible for such a long period of time in my life. I was unhealthy, hurting, tired of eating, and sick of being sick.

I went to doctors and GI specialists, but was directed toward pharmaceuticals and conventional treatments focused on symptoms instead of pursuing the root cause. After about a year of IBS frustration and being dissatisfied with conventional medicine, I took my health into my own hands and began to investigate it from a holistic and integrative perspective. 

Regarding my diet, I shifted to a paleo/keto-ish, high meat/fat, and very low carb diet. I weighed every ounce of food I ate and feared fruit. All of this led me to a place of very low body weight/fat and ketoacidosis. My digestive system was worse and so were my hormones. Did I mention I thought I was doing the whole “nutrition thing” well?

Beyond my eating, I began exercising pretty intensively not long after the onset of my IBS. My routine included running about 25 miles a week and heavy weight training six days a week.

Over the next two years, I made slow progress and my GI tract began to heal.
I worked with a holistic Registered Dietitian who guided me through the LEAP program (a personalized elimination diet), which allowed me to remove my problem foods and reduce the inflammation in my body to create an opportunity for healing. Much of my journey however, was me doing my own digging, attempting different changes, and figuring it out along the way (this was all prior to my master’s degree).

My eyes were opened to 1) how critical your gut health is, and 2) how much of an impact what you put in, on, and around your body and your overall lifestyle has on your health. Most importantly, I started focusing on my gut health, digestion, and replenishing the good bacteria. Several food changes that were critical in my healing beyond the elimination diet were:

  • starting my morning with a fruit and veggie smoothie
  • taking digestive bitters (to help stimulate my body’s digestive processes)
  • choosing organic
  • lightly steaming or blending my vegetables
  • eating naturally fermented foods like traditional sauerkraut
  • traditionally preparing foods (think soaking, sprouting, fermenting)
  • allowing ample time between meals for digestion (usually 3-4 hours)
  • taking a probiotic
  • slowing and sitting down when eating
  • becoming more in-tune with my body

Food wasn’t the only factor however; it took an overhaul of my entire lifestyle. My body was so internally inflamed and I realized how intimately connected different systems of the body are. I had to own up to the damage I brought onto myself and address the underlying hormonal imbalances I had, other lifestyle factors such as exercise, and my overall toxic load.

I removed the toxins from what I put on my face and body, cleaning supplies, etc., and began using essential oils. Regarding exercise, slowly but surely I transitioned from long runs and heavy lifting (which had taken its toll on my body), to shorter runs, HIIT, and bodyweight strength and flexibility workouts. However, I soon realized even this was too much stress on my body. Finally, I became okay with walking and bodyweight exercise.

Mentally, I recognized that every single body is different and I couldn’t put my body through that intense of exercise while trying to heal. What may have been most important though, I realized the necessity of declaring victory, by the power of the Holy Spirit, against the enemy who was stirring lies of comparison in my mind between my body with others.

 

Let’s back up a little though, because I need to draw attention to the most important part of my story…
At the time of my IBS, I was seeking to honor God, but He revealed to me that I was not doing that with my physical health and lifestyle choices. Rather than seeking what God had to say about it, I was looking to the world and what the culture was saying I should eat and exercise to be healthy and look a certain way.

Through that, the devil took a hold of my mind and food/exercise consumed me. It became an idol, distracting me from going deeper with Christ and inhibiting me from fully carrying out the mission He established for believers and the unique one for my life. 

I have experienced in my own life what it means to have years where I was rather ineffective for the Kingdom because of my own decisions, because of following the world and what the culture said was best in terms of health, eating, and exercise.

Yet through it all, God was faithful. When I surrendered the entirety of my life to Him, including my eating and health, He worked through the disorder and chaos of my life. My prayer became “I need You to teach me what I should eat and how to take care of my body. I need your help in healing because I can’t do this on my own and don’t want to do it according to the world anymore.”

God is about restoration and redemption, and He took me on a journey of healing and opening my eyes to His original design and how to eat and live according to Biblical truth. I discovered the ways in which He created us to live an abundant life – to thrive and be physically well! God is wanting us to surrender every part of our lives to Him, and the Holy Spirit led me in that to a place of freedom.

God is faithful to bring about good from the most hopeless situations. He is about LIFE – spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Through my health journey, I have become deeply aware of how impactful physical health is on overall well-being, the wellness of others, and the world. Nutrition and lifestyle go far beyond physical health. The entire body – physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally is connected. But beyond that, our choices and health impacts so much more than just ourselves. Our lifestyle choices are so powerful.

My passion for nutrition and wellness, life-giving foods, and helping others thrive as God intended grew more profound and intricate through my journey. God stirred in me a deep desire to help others recognize this design and how powerful our lifestyle choices are.

It was through my circumstances that He brought clarity to the call He has placed on my life. He stirred in me a passion to wake up the Church to this reality and equip the Body to physically thrive for the purpose of furthering His Kingdom.

Through my journey of healing, He answered my question of “how do I use my love for nutrition and wellness to build the Kingdom?” God revealed to meI the bigger picture of how they are intimately connected, and gave me the revelation that we as a body of Christ should be leading the way in the health movement. We are called to live a holy life – one set apart in every aspect.

Interestingly, I eat healthier and am healthier now than ever before. Please hear me though, I am not perfect. I still have residual hormonal imbalances that are slowly balancing. Although I do live more restrictive in the technical sense, the purpose for which I eat and live this way has changed. I am very intentional with my choices because I have come to view how caring for my body is part of what it means to honor, glorify, and live for God. I have greatly simplified my life, but I live a life of abundance.

For those who are in the thick of similar circumstances, I hear you. I understand what you’re going through, but most importantly I know what it takes to move past that and get to a place of abundant living.

Join with me as I continue to explore and discuss how nutrition and wellness is relevant to life as a follower of Christ through a simple and intentional lifestyle.

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© 2018 Noelle Parton. All rights reserved.