my journey to a healthier body, from the inside out: getting comfortable in your own skin

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This week-long series isn’t about how I lost nearly 30 pounds in three months, rather this is about a lifetime battle with my body and how I’m finally traveled to a place where I’m settled in my skin and love it, from the inside out. This week, I’ll be sharing highly personal aspects of my life as well as practical tips I’ve learned–all in an effort to inspire you and remind myself that every day requires self-work and self-love. I was going to introduce this series when I hit my goal weight, but that felt pointless, because this is a journey that has no end until the end, and that’s actually really comforting. Shocking for a Type-A control freak like me. In today’s post I talk about the tough stuff I’ve had to endure throughout this journey and how it made me comfortable in my own skin–from people who want to play armchair physician, to doctors who don’t respect, to analyzing my poop and how to shop for a changing body, I share all the good times.

I have a phrase that I use often and it’s this: You’re either on my bus or you’re off my bus. Over the years I’ve endured admonishments and petty cruelty from the barnacles–those who proclaimed to be my friend to then only suck the life right out of me. The barnacles are sneaky, spindly in the way they cleave and attach, and you practically need a scalpel to excise them from your life. For years, I thought it was normal to surround myself with judgmental, catty assholes, and I’d normally get drunk just to get through a dinner party without throwing things. And for a time I thought it was perfectly fine to befriend people who wheedled and connived, “friends” who made me doubt yourself, made me strive to be my lowest self.

Then I woke up. It was as if I’d been asleep all this time and I suddenly woke up! Removed the sleep from my eyes and grabbed a scalpel to remove all the human lesions that’d formed attachments to my skin. Because make no mistake, surrounding yourself with toxic people,–and I’m not talking about people who sometimes go through a shitty time, because we’re human, not game show hosts–people who thrive on making you feel small will invariably make you feel just that. Small. My circle is well-cultivated and magical; we all bear one another, from time to time, on our shoulders. Because that’s what friends do, bear the weight of our sorrow and wipe the tears from our eyes because one day they know we’ll be there to hold their head in our hands. We’ll be there in our pajamas, bearing a bucket of ice cream, two spoons and a DVD of Bachelorette (the movie, not the show) because that’s what we do. We love without judgment.

So when I started to get sick from all the gluten and dairy, but before hives would make a map on my body, some people would play doctor and tell me about the ailments they thought I had. Pay no mind that I was paying trained medical professionals, no, no, no, once you have a degree from Women’s Health and Marie Claire, playing the part of a physician seems easy, downright necessary. Friends would interrupt me and tell me about their friend (it’s always their friend) who had the same exact problem and it wasn’t gluten, it was XYZ! Or was I really nixing gluten and dairy because I wanted to just lose weight ((wink, wink)Come on, be honest), because haven’t you heard? Hating on gluten is so en vogue.

My response? I politely told everyone to please shut the fuck up and let me deal with actual experts. Because sometimes a friend comes to you simply for comfort, rather than a desire for you to fix everything. I don’t need you to solve my life or tell me about your friend, who I don’t know or care about, I just need you to shut up and be a friend. I need you to be present and here for me, just as I’ve always been present for you.

Even now, even still, people, sometimes complete strangers, want to tell me about how I’m feeling and how gluten sensitivities don’t exist. I have to remind myself that this often comes from a place of kindness (at best) or ignorance (at worst), and I thank them as gracefully. I tell them that I’ve medical professionals on the case. While I don’t need to punch everyone who annoys me, I’ve learned to speak up for myself. I’ve learned to tell people, politely, that I don’t need their armchair medicine. And if they don’t respect that, if they continue to prattle on and talk over me, they are just as politely kicked off my bus.

Because I don’t have time for your nonsense.

Speaking of nonsense, have I mentioned that this journey WAS/IS/CONTINUES to be expensive? After my cat died last year and I relapsed, I spent the remainder of 2013 catatonic. So much so that I forgot to enroll in health insurance, something I sorely regret this year. Thankfully, my doctor of over a decade was kind enough to extend a payment plan, and I see my investment in Dana, in the grand scheme of things, minor compared to what I’d have to shell out if I had major health issues down the road. I don’t mind working longer hours, taking on supplemental projects that I don’t necessarily love, if I’m paying for experts who have my best interests at heart.

Not when I’m paying an allergist $1000 to treat me like a small child. The hives that I experienced as a result of eating gluten and dairy after I’d abstained for two weeks, persisted. Although they covered less of my body, I woke every day to itch and redness, and this baffled my doctor and nutritionist. They hadn’t seen a case this extreme for this long, and they recommended a visit to an allergist, because perhaps in my vulnerable state I’d opened myself up to an allergy? Who the fuck knows. What I do know is this: I wish I’d never seen this allergist. I wish I could have my hard-earned money back. I wish I’d never heard of this woman’s name at all.

I debated for weeks whether or not I should post the allergist’s name, and I won’t because I’M TRYING SO FUCKING HARD TO BE GRACEFUL even though I seriously want to pummel her. Can we start with the fact that I spent more time waiting in the waiting room than actually speaking to the doctor? Even during my first session I felt uncomfortable because she literally pushed my food sensitivity test results aside and said, yeah, let’s get some real tests. She cut me off, didn’t want to hear about my food issues, and pushed me into submitting myself for expensive tests that were inconclusive and sloppily-rendered. I was going to post a picture of the patch test she did on my back, and I relented because the image might give you nightmares. It sure as hell did for me. In the end, she charged me for shoddy work, delayed sending my biopsy results (but didn’t have a problem sending me a bill and hounding me for it), and made every session more about my ability to pay than my actual condition. I sat in my nutritionist’s office yesterday and had a rage blackout when we talked about said allergist, and Dana reminded me that I have to let this rage go.

Fine. I’m letting it go. But I will say this: don’t ever let a doctor (or anyone for that matter) make you feel small. Don’t let a doctor override your instinct. This allergist tried to tell me that these smaller hives were actually worse than my original condition and I honestly regarded her as if she were smoking crack. Because she had no idea what I went through and I know, and my DOCTOR KNOWS, that when I went to see her I was dealing with residual hives. If you’re seeing someone about food sensitivities, make sure the doctor listens to you and has respect for holistic medicine. Remember, you are the client, and they are the recipient of your hard-earned money. Do your research, ask questions over the phone before your appointment, and if you get a strange vibe don’t feel bad about not going back.

It reminds me of a story a friend told me some years ago. About a decade ago she’d developed celiac, and a team of doctors told her that she had depression, that she was making up her symptoms, that she was bonkers for believing that her condition was related to gluten! HA! HA! She told me how she left doctors’ offices powerless, confused, angry. No one deserves to be treated like that. If your doctor isn’t on your bus, KICK THEM OFF. Preferably with a spiked boot.

Inforgraphic credit:  http://www.care2.com/greenliving/what-your-poop-is-trying-to-tell-you.html
Inforgraphic credit: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/what-your-poop-is-trying-to-tell-you.html

Since I just talked to you about a pile of bullshit poop is a perfect segue, don’t you think? While it’s true that no one likes to talk about their bathroom business, it’s a real sentimental education so get out your pen and paper and take notes. If this is too TMI, scroll down a bit to the awkward snap of me on the street.

For the past two years I vacillated between constipation, diarrhea, and bullet stools. Going to the bathroom was NOT FUN, and it got so that I would drink two cups of coffee just to go to the bathroom. Does that sound normal to you? Your body has this arcane and incredible capacity to educate you about yourself–you only need to listen. Your stool is a direct reflection of what’s going on in your digestive system, and while you don’t need to make your poo fodder for brunch conversation, you should be checking out your business on the regular because it’ll tell you if you lack fiber, water, nutrients, etc. In addition to the cute infographic above (cute was reaching a bit, yes?), Sarah Wilson has a terrific, simple post on figuring out your stool situation. Spending time with yourself in this way isn’t always fun, but it’s informative.

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What else gives me vertigo? FASHION. (I mean, look how awkward I look in the above photo? Nothing creeps me out more than having my picture taken.) I remember I used to post outfit photos on this space and I’m so embarrassed that I did–who did I think I was prancing around like that? Spending sums of money on clothing I didn’t need. Clothing I’ve since donated or given away. By no means am I a stylish person–I prefer clothes that are simple and have a function. I’ve no interest in being creative with my clothing, rather, I save that for prose and the food I make and photograph for others. However, one of the biggest challenges was finding clothes that fit during the height of my weight, bloat and overall malaise, and the transition to where I am now. While I’ve about eight pounds to go to hit my goal weight and most of my old clothes fit, I’ve found that my style has changed over the past four years. I still focus on clothing that’s comfortable and functional, but more than ever I’ve made a point in buying less and better.

During my transition, most of what I wore were “legging pants” because they had stretch, cotton dresses and nothing that clung to my body. As I started to lose, I took in dresses that were investment pieces when I hit the 20 pound mark and plan to leave them at that size because I like clothes that are not too form-fitting and have a little give. More affordable linen pants from Old Navy and stretch trousers from Uniqlo were donated, and I replaced them with wool and silk trousers. Last week I bought my first pair of jeans in four years–Paige Denim, boyfriend skinny (love!)

Now I have about 15 items I wear pretty frequently and I’m slowly giving away or donating the bulk of my wardrobe. I don’t need multiples; I don’t care for trends, rather I prefer to buy classic pieces (black, grey and navy pants; v-neck and crewneck wool and cashmere sweaters; one button-down, a few pairs of shoes; one black handbag) and I punch up my wardrobe, which can get a bit boring, with accessories. I really like BaubleBar’s bits and recently purchased this lovely bracelet from J. Crew (on-sale!). I also troll Hitha’s + Grace’s sites because they often find affordable costume jewelry and accessories designers. I also have a bit of a scarf addiction, but luckily I stockpiled while I was in India so I’m all set…for the next six months.

But in the end, I wear what makes me feel good. While writing this post I wondering how I was going to cobble together poop, barnacles, crap allergists and fashion, and I’ve realized that I’m talking about comfort. Be your loudest advocate. Do and act from a place of what feels good to you. Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Love and take care of yourself, and whether you’re fashionable or functional, wear clothes that feel like a second skin.

Next Up: Today, I’m traveling to South East Asia (!!!), so hopefully I’ll get time to pen tomorrow’s post on the plane! I’ll post some final thoughts and what’s next on the horizon for me health-wise, and on this blog. I’d love to hear from you. Do you like series like this? I’m trying to experiment with long-form storytelling, and let me know if you’re keen on hearing more of it and if there are any subjects in particular you’d like to see me write about.

And FINALLY. I met with my nutritionist yesterday, and asked if she’d be willing to answer some of my reader’s questions, and she SAID YES! If you have a health or food-related question for a professional, please leave them in the comments section. I’m going to compile them when I’m in Asia for a follow-up post.

13 thoughts on “my journey to a healthier body, from the inside out: getting comfortable in your own skin

  1. Felicia, I really enjoy your writing (whether it’s about health, food, travel, or writing itself) so I would love to see some more long-form storytelling on here! Anyway, it sounds like things are going well with your health/food journey 🙂 Hope you have a wonderful time in South East Asia!

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    1. Katie,

      Thank you for your feedback! That’s precisely my direction. I want to use this space to challenge myself, and if that means longer posts–so be it. The right ones will find their way here and appreciate what I do and will challenge me when I need to be checked and challenged. Thanks always for reading.

      Warmly, Felicia

      Liked by 1 person

  2. More long-form, please. This essay really is amazing. I love its structure and the fact that it performs–is that the right word?–the connection of everything to our bodies. Allergies-bad doctors-rage-food-poop-fashion-awkwardness. We are bodies. Our bodies speak to us, loud. Even what we excrete. I got a little tear-up when I got to the poop section. This is ongoing for me. My poor body (my gut, my bones, my immune system) hasn’t been balanced since menopause (yes, I’m that old). Whew. Tearing up again. And this morning I awoke with hives all over my face and throat, as I do every few months…because I have to drive 500 miles on Saturday to take care of a rental house in a city where I experienced so much trauma, physical and psychic, that I had hives for six solid months? Where I took so much prednisone (which did nothing) I was banned from taking it for at least a year? Where I went to three allergists and two dermatologists, none of whom (none!) diagnosed me properly? Yep. If I’d wanted Botox or Juvenal they would have been happy to oblige, but refractory urticaria? They just shrugged and wrote another script and hoped I wouldn’t be back the next week, showing them where I’d excoriated my arm skin in my sleep and bled on my sheets. Anyway. This post has made all this come to the surface (to my hive-ridden skin) and somehow it helped me come back to myself, enabled me to feel again, and I didn’t think that was going to happen today. I was shutting down ALL the intakes. Now things are flowing a little bit. Thank you, Felicia, so much. This matters. Made such a difference. And now I’m going to go. I have some barnacles to scrape off my heart…

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    1. Ah! I hadn’t thought of the connection. BODIES! What happens in them. That’s so sage and perceptive, Danielle. Thank you for that. It’s amazing how other people’s perceptions of your work can add so much depth.

      I saw your post on Facebook re: hives, and I related so deeply, so wholly. I think our bodies have such an incredible way of talking to us, in a way that can’t simply and solely be resolved with medication. Yes, we need our drugs from time to time, certainly, but I can’t help but think about how our emotional state and how we nurture that (good, bad or otherwise) drives the rest of our health.

      I’m sending you so much wellness and love, Danielle.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Felicia!! Another great post! I definitely can recognize the barnacles in my life and I have removed some but some are very difficult to remove. I have a question for your nutritionist, how do I figure out false positives on my Alcat? I am working with a naturopathic doctor for my food sensitivities but do to cost of visits I have to spread them out. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us.

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  4. Love your blog. I don’t have celiacs but work with gf people so I know how tough it is. I am trying to eat well myself. I’ve always been overweight even though I’m pretty active and I’m trying to eat healthier so that I cAn feel and look better. My question for your nutritionist is what are some easy changes I can make to my diet? Also what are done food dinner options? I don’t like to cook and dinner is the meal I eat too much or nothing.thanks Felicia !!

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    1. Pamela,

      Thank you for this. You know, my doctor said something really powerful to me. He saw my weight gain over the past few years and only mentioned something to me about it when he noticed how it was adversely affecting my health (high insulin levels in a blood test last year). He said it wasn’t his job to judge the shape of my body, rather it was his job to let me know if I was doing something to hurt it. That really remained with me, and when people leave comments about how “slim” I look, I have to remind myself and kindly remind them, that it’s not about being big or small, it’s about being healthy. And I have to remind myself not to use size as a compliment, and that’s hard, too.

      I’ll share your question with Dana, as she works with lots of people who really don’t like to cook. The easiest change I made to my diet was to eat WHOLE FOOD. I don’t eat anything where I don’t understand the ingredients. I eat mostly vegetables. When I’m tired, I’ll throw a bunch of vegetables in a pan and roast it. Or I’ll make soup. But I’ll definitely add this to the list I’m sending her.

      Warmly, Felicia

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