Sarah’s Rap: Last year I was walking with a long-time friend and after voicing my unhappiness with my health issues and resulting dietary regimen (for probably the millionth time), my friend suggested that I might need to accept that this was the way things were going to be. That I might not get past this. She had a good point, and for awhile after that conversation I tried not to be upset with what I COULDN’T eat and instead was satisfied with what I COULD eat, and all the other good things I had in my life – a loving family, a good job, enough money to buy organic, high-quality foods and more. A strange thing happened. Just by deciding to change my mindset my stress-levels reduced and I felt more enjoyment in life.
Sadly, since then I’ve regressed and reverted back to fighting my circumstances and always striving to “get better”. On one hand, it’s a good thing to want to be better. I don’t sit idly by or decide to eat whatever I want no matter how sick it makes me. I got a new doctor, did some lab work to find more food sensitivities and bacterial overgrowth issues, bought a portable sauna for the house and started doing progressive relaxation. But this mindset of always striving for better health also causes stress and a constant dissatisfaction that my life is not what I want it to be. I’m always cooking, worrying about eating at social functions and turning a bit into a hermit. What I need to find is a balance between the two. I need to bring more LOVE into my life and only I can control how receptive I am to it. Only I can generate love within myself for others, my environment and my life experiences. No one will do it for me. I am surrounded by love from others, yet I often feel dissatisfied and depressed. I am going to call this My Year of Love and I’ve just read an inspiring book that’s going to help! Wanna join me? If so, read on!
“The Loving Diet” by Jessica Flanigan is about fostering a positive outlook and having a loving relationship with adversity. The author has experienced for herself, and witnessed in many others, that by cooperating with the challenges that come our way rather than fighting them, we can actually improve our health, attitude and life. A few parts of the book are a little overly spiritual for me, but they’re minimal and all the inspirational stories, motivating affirmations and activities that encourage introspection make this book a great guide to finding happiness. This book is not just for those suffering from chronic illnesses. Although it does cater more towards readers with a chronic illness, particularly an autoimmune disease, it also can be a helpful read for someone suffering from heartbreak, depression, grief, loss of a job, divorce or other life event which you might consider as negative. Ms. Flanigan encourages readers to use experiences in life, even the difficult ones, as opportunities to grow. It’s about learning to “lift ourselves up in our lives during the most challenging situations.”
There are many great quotes from this book that encourage me to be more positive and less resentful. For example, in the very first paragraph the author writes, “You might not be able to change your illness, but you are completely capable of changing your relationship to your illness to create more happiness in your life. When you identify with loving instead of the pain, liberation, abundance, and joy are more available to you.” Yes! This is what I need! This introduction encouraged me to read on and I had a hard time putting the book down. It’s a fairly fast read, even with me writing down notes to remember and affirmations to print out and post somewhere where I could see them.
Here are just a few of my favorite affirmations from the book that resonated with me:
- The universe never gives me more than I can handle
- Everything present in my life is here to help me gain wisdom
- Find the joy in the present moment
I would recommend you check out this book to learn more about the “healing benefits of mind and soul.” There is so much more I loved about it. I haven’t marked so many passages to reread or taken so many notes from a book in some time. I plan to read it again and use its wisdom to remind me to find the blessings in my life, especially those that are with me as a result of my health conditions.
This book has encouraged me to think of positive things that are a part of my life now as a result of my health challenges:
- I eat healthier now than ever before.
- I get 8 hours of sleep a night as much as possible.
- I am wiser about what foods are good for the body and which are not.
- I share my learnings with my husband, children, family and friends (and you!) so that hopefully I can improve the health of others as a result.
- A good friend of mine now eats a mostly Paleo diet and feels (and looks) better than ever!
- I have met some wonderful people along the way – naturopathic docs, nutritionists and others suffering from the same condition.
- I am making more time now for mindfulness, yoga and meditation, which will have lasting health benefits as I age. This article states that these activities may help even prevent and improve symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Awesome! Maybe I’ll be a sharper old lady as a result of my new health regimen!
- My whole family eats out less at restaurants than we did before my illness, which saves money and ensures we eat healthier, homemade meals (making our dog happier in the process as she likes to hang out under the table).
- I’ve started this blog with my amazing sister, Melissa. I’m not sure I would have enough to say if I didn’t have this adversity in my life to teach me so many life lessons.
This book is helping me to put aside some of those feelings of what my life “should be” and instead appreciate what it “is”. It’s not easy, and the author agrees. Changing one’s perception is difficult and requires constant work and self-correction. I need to work to be diligent else I find myself positive one day and down in the dumps the next. This requires some change in my life too. I’m trying to avoid negative people that make me feel different and instead surround myself with friends and people that I feel at home with and who quietly offer support while still treating me like a normal person. I also need to make sure that I stop obsessing about food and health and spend time with my family just having fun.
This book does not make any claims that changing your mindset is enough to heal you. Instead it mentions three key things that work in conjunction to improve one’s life – a loving mindset, working with a supportive team (of doctors, friends, etc) and eating a healthy diet. For those with autoimmune diseases, or even Leaky Gut like myself, an Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) diet can really help reduce inflammation, reduce symptoms and promote healing. For those suffering from life challenges, such as heartbreak or job loss, I believe eating healthy can be just as beneficial. Those that have not heard about the Gut-Brain Axis, might want to read this article. Stress can lead to digestive disorders and vice versa. If you are under a lot of stress, it is doubly-important to eat a diet rich in vegetables and low-inflammatory foods, while reducing or eliminating sugar, grains, dairy, industrially-farmed meats and processed oils that will lead to inflammation and an imbalance in gut bacteria. If this occurs when you are also experiencing stress, that is the perfect storm for Leaky Guy, candida overgrowth, bacterial overgrowth and autoimmune diseases. This was what happened to me. Don’t turn to traditional “comfort” foods, alcohol and an unhealthy lifestyle. Nurture your body and you will in turn nurture your mind.
I have by no means changed my perceptions and emotions overnight concerning my health issues, but this book has planted some seeds that with work I can help grow. I’ll let you know how my journey progresses. All I can say is that a healthy diet and supportive network on its own has not been enough. I’m still often sad about my circumstances, feel my life is lacking and spend my days consumed with health concerns rather than experiencing fun and happiness despite the adversities I face. I am ready to let more love in and see where that takes me! I hope those of you finding yourselves obsessing over adversity can join me in trying to cooperate with it instead.