Mentality is Everything

Since I’m done with school for a couple weeks and killed this past academic year with my bare hands ;p I decided I’d write a little bit. I do kind of miss it; not writing as much as I used to. But, I can’t believe I have actually gotten through a WHOLE school year without getting sick or being hospitalized. I keep emphasizing to the people around me that “I’m done, I finished a year!” and they’re probably getting annoyed at this point like “okkkkeyyy we get it, you’re done” lol. But it is a huge deal for me. The past five years of my life (and throughout highschool), I’ve struggled with school. I could never figure out how to not get overwhelmed by a heavy work load and I never thought that I could actually do it. “You’re going to get sick” was in the back of my mind ALL the time. And when I saw all the time, I mean at pretty much every waking second. The struggle was real and this was probably the worst mindset a person could have. After having to withdraw twice from school, several hospitalizations/in home IV treatments per year I was pretty much at a loss when it came to my education. It didn’t help that the schools were not at all understanding especially Westfield State, I kind of wish I took more action with it but at the time I was so sick I didn’t even care. Regardless I decided I needed to do something with my mindset. I first started with encouraging myself (even if I didn’t believe myself I knew eventually I would) and finding a stress outlet, which was the gym. I think that’s truly when things began to change for me. Stress is hands down my #1 trigger to a flare up. It only takes me about two or three weeks of being stressed out to start noticing significant symptoms including- energy loss, bloody bm, canker sores in my mouth, severe joint pain, bloating, etc. Although these past final weeks of school have sent me into a little flare from the stress, I have changed my mindset to control my stress levels and it’s finally paying off. I have a 4.0 gpa to show for it!

The gym and living a healthy lifestyle has no doubt changed my life. Not only do I see myself physically looking healthier and stronger, my mentality is as strong as it’s ever been. It hasn’t been as easy as it sounds though. It’s taken me a few years to figure everything out and I’m still a work in progress (mentally and physically). Some people may call me a bit obsessed with the “fit lifestyle” but I just loFullSizeRender (7)ok at it as dedication. Yes I log my food, and yes I count calories/macros, but how else do you learn? It also allows me to make sure I’m getting the amount of food and nutrients I need to stay healthy. And not to mention keeps my brain occupied with something I really enjoy doing.  Being able to channel my stress, or anyone being able to do that in a healthy manner is one of the keys to happiness. I am now successfully able to block out negativity (which I was terrible at before) and it feels so damn good!

Not only is changing your diet/focusing on a healthy lifestyle and exercising is a good stress reliever but it can be beneficial to IBD itself. I’ve noticed that even when my body might not feel that great, my mind still does which is vital in living a somewhat normal life with Crohn’s. Your mind is everything.. Exercise also tends to calm down my digestive system and allows me to IMG_1613have normal bm! Craziness. I tend to not have the best appetite, so when I exercise it also keeps me hungry and my metabolism in check!  Another benefit of exercise is the benefit it has on your bones. Us Crohnies have most likely been on an obscene amount of steroids, which can long-term lead to breakdown of bones (osteoporosis), so this can be a great preventative method for IBD patients.

Well as this school year comes to a close I am a happier, more accomplished me 🙂 Not only am I closing a chapter but I am opening a new one and starting the nursing program at my school in the Fall. Life is only today, and you can accomplish anything if you really want it. Not to say there aren’t obstacles but take it day by day, moment by moment and you’d be surprised at how much you can achieve!

 

-xoMichelle

Being Healthy With Unhealthy Insides

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I’ve been doing a fair bit of research on this new concept health gurus have put out regarding “clean eating”, gluten free diets, and those different lifestyles. Although I have always been an athlete and active person I haven’t paid a lot of attention to my diet until I took a exercise science and nutrition course. I then realized, it is a very important part of being healthy and fit. Although I wasn’t able to finish the nutrition class I learned a lot and became very interested in health and fitness, I even thought about majoring in nutrition.

Having Crohn’s disease doctors and nutritionists always said I had to stay away from certain things, follow a gluten free diet, and so on. I never thought my diet actually affected me and my insides that dramatically. That was kind of ignorant for me to think because I have a digestive disease lol. So this past year I’ve read a lot and tried some different things that I’ll share with you all. I realized I can be healthy, but I have to tweak my diet so my stomach doesn’t flare up. Now, this of course is different for everyone because unlike most diseases Crohn’s varies SO much from person to person.

First, I tried “eating clean”. This meant, everything I ate was fresh and no processed food or extra sugars. I ate only fresh fruit, fresh veggies, natural peanut butter, and things like that. Nuts, seeds, whole grains, and homemade everything. NO extra added sugar what so ever, the only sugar I ate was the naturally occurring sugars in food. Well, this was a recipe for disaster (no pun intended). All of the fresh food made my stomach burst into tears. The pain, it was unbearable. Although I didn’t show other signs of a flare this definitely irritated me to no end. Now even though it pains me to think (not literally), the processed food for some reason sets better with me.

A funny story that brings me to actually (I get side tracked pretty easily). When I was younger the only thing I could eat in a big flare up was McDonalds chicken nuggets. Nothing else. Gross, I know. My doctor questioned it but as with Crohn’s I would rapidly lose a large amount of weight and anything to keep the weight on he would say “go for it”. I’m not sure if anyone else has experienced something like this before, but it is even odd to me. I can’t say anymore that McDonald’s does me good, but my symptoms have also changed substantially as I’ve gotten older (another mystery of Crohn’s disease). Now, during flare-ups because I have so much pain and bleeding I rely on Powerade and packaged soup.

But anyways, I stopped “eating clean” and now I just eat healthy, or my kind of healthy.. I don’t obsess over my diet but I make healthier choices. When making healthier choices and feeling the results, grabbing for that cookie isn’t as tempting. But, if I want smoothiethat cookie, or a bowl of ice cream bring it on!

Another rage now a days is cutting out carbs. I would never and I could never cut out carbs completely. They say a healthy way of getting carbs is by eating whole grains, nuts, seeds, and all that stuff that is absolutely TERRIBLE for us Crohnies. Like I said, I tried this… and I paid for it with days of pain getting up to an 8 or 9 at times. So now I just stick to getting carbs and sugars through fresh fruit (mostly without the skin due to it being harder to digest) and tortillas and things like that. But, if I want a big fat bagel, I will have one. I think that is the most important thing in eating healthy. You can’t obsess over it and if you want something every now and again, have it! Also, an easier way of eating my greens instead of a salad, or even some cooked veggies are hard to digest, I put spinach or kale in smoothies. This sounds bad but its actually delicious!

Another tip for Crohnies: when you’re having a bad day stomach wise a good option is fasting. Not completely but usually I’ll pack my fridge with fresh or frozen fruit and do a day or two of JUST smoothies or if you have a juicer that works too! On these days I make sure I drink plenty of water and 3-4 cups of green tea (which is a great detoxifier too!) A liquid only diet is something doctors would do way back when (and some doctors still recommend it) to give your insides a break. On these days that I do this I usually don’t go to the gym. I sometimes will actually get in the routine of this once or twice a week even when I’m feeling good. It gives my body an extra boost and motivates me when I get off track and have been eating badly.

I have a secret too. Food is huge with keeping you “regular” if you know what I mean. And I’m talking everyone, not just people with digestive issues. My dad has sworn by the cereal Total. I didn’t believe him until about two weeks ago when I tried it. When I’m not completely flaring, I am mostly constipated (one extreme to the other lol). I had a HUGE issue with this. I was taking laxatives daily, and tried just about anything. Well, I stopped being stubborn and listened to my dad and WOW, worked like a charm! One bowl a day is all I needed and if I don’t have that one bowl a day, I look 5 months pregnant with all of the gas and poo stuck up there, no exaggeration. It’s not just the fiber either. I’ve tried taking fiber, eating more fiber. It’s the type of fiber and combination of things in it. It is also awesome for getting all of your vitamins! No need to take a multivitamin (which are overrated if you have a balanced diet and aren’t deficient in anything).

Another part of being healthy is getting regular exercise. I’ve shared converworkoutsations with people who would love to go and workout but their joints are just too bad. I can sympathize greatly with this but if you have this problem go back and read my post on my joint pain and what I take for it, it works wonders! I try to get to the gym ATLEAST 2 or 3 times a week. It boosts my mood, especially if I haven’t been feeling good and it also keeps my physique even if I only have the energy to walk on the treadmill for a half hour. Since my back injury I’m pretty much back full force but I have noticed exercising my core takes a toll on my stomach. It sounded dumb to me at first but if my stomach muscles are sore from a lot of ab workouts I tend to have intestinal pain and tenderness a couple days after (not just my abdominal muscles, I can feel the difference). I don’t know if any of you have but I thought it was a little weird seeing as this hasn’t happened to me in the past.

I take pride in my body and even though I like my carbs and sweets (sometimes, I don’t have a huge sweet tooth) I think it’s important to realize what you’re putting in your body, especially with a digestive disease. Food fuels your body and most of the time if you eat like crap you’ll feel like crap. Most of us Crohnies can’t change our lifestyle like people with normal digestive tracts but we can tweak elements of our diet. By just changing small little things you will notice a huge difference in your overall health and even in your disease. I try to still cut down on my intake of unnatural sugars because I know our bodies aren’t meant to have those kinds of sugars. An example, I cut out a lot of sugary drinks and juices and now I mostly only drink fresh tea (hot or iced) and water with lemon or other fruit. If I want to sweeten things I add honey, fruit, or stevia. I feel so much better and refreshed. Also, when I don’t drink those sugary drinks my stomach doesn’t act up as much when I eat.

Putting it positively, having Crohn’s disease is a journey and you have to make the best of it. Eating is a huge way of controlling symptoms, shaping your body, and improving your well-being. Eating healthier and exercising normally has made me feel more alive and energetic even on days I struggle through. But, another important thing for your health that a lot of people are deprived of is sleep and it’s time to get those important seven to eight hours of sleep for me! Getting the right amount of sleep (7 to 10 hours) is vital. It goes hand-in-hand with a good diet and daily exercise. Stay healthy my friends! 😉

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-xo Michelle