I'm Tall, White, Thin, Able-Bodied, and Privileged - Why Was I Still Obsessed with Food?

When sharing my story about my history with disordered eating and my obsession with food, exercise, and my body, I’ve received comments about the validity of my experience and whether it’s relatable to others.

 I've been 15 lbs. lighter and heavier than my weight in this pic, and my obsession with food was the same regardless of the state of my body.

I've been 15 lbs. lighter and heavier than my weight in this pic, and my obsession with food was the same regardless of the state of my body.

I am white, tall, thin, able-bodied, and young, so what could I have possibly been obsessing over?  Shouldn’t I just shut my mouth and be grateful for what I did/do have? These questions initially elicited a knee-jerk reaction of frustration and disappointment, but after giving them some thought, I have been able to see these questions through a different lens.

It’s important to recognize my position of privilege due to the aforementioned qualities and how others do not receive the same benefits, and there are ways in which these privileges manifest that I’m still not aware of. 

However, this does negate nor take away from my experience, and it doesn’t for anyone else either. Our relationships to food aren’t just about our bodies, and our experiences are valid simply by virtue of them occurring.

Where It All Began

When looking through the lens of my own experience, my obsession with my body began in response to circumstances many other women can relate to: I learned that my appearance is my most valuable currency, and in order to be lovable, I must look perfect as defined by society’s standards.

Furthermore, in a household of four children within four years and as a middle child who was relatively “easy” and calm, I yearned for attention and accolades. I believed that obtaining perfection (in every way—not just with my body) was the only way to achieve this.

I was 5’8” by the age of 13, so I was deeply insecure about my height. It made me different, and similarly to any teenager, this instantly made me resentful of the trait.

Additionally, as I progressed further into puberty, I looked to my dad and brothers to gauge appropriate portion sizes during mealtimes, and I steadily gained weight.

I didn’t feel any connection to my body at that point in time, so I overate processed foods regularly.  Was I unconscious with my choices? Absolutely. Did I demonize specific foods? Not yet.

Fast forward a few months,  and I was tall and now heavier than was natural for my frame, and I began to feel myself drifting farther and farther away from the ideal. The last thing I would have categorized myself as was “feminine” according to society’s standards.

Was I technically overweight? No, but I was heavier than felt comfortable to me, and I was certainly too heavy according to others in my immediate circle. And they made it known.

After listening to this unsolicited feedback and observing interactions around me, I slowly started putting the pieces together:

  • A leaner body means more attention.
  • More attention means an increased likelihood of receiving love, acceptance, and being seen.
  • Less food and more exercise leads to a leaner body.
  • Food is the barrier to feeling love, acceptance, and the ability to be seen.
  • Food is the enemy.

This isn’t true of course, but this concept ruled my life for a decade. I viewed food as the gateway to my self-worth and value in the eyes of others, so it’s no great surprise that it became my obsession.

It was a love/hate relationship, and it was one that I so badly wanted to make peace with.

Obsession at Any Stage

My issues with food and my body started and continued due to feelings of unworthiness, and they didn’t let up for ten years regardless of the state of my body.

It didn't matter if I was 15 lbs. heavier than today at my heaviest or 15 lbs. lighter at my lightest—my obsession remained constant as I ebbed and flowed within those 30 lbs.

When I was leaner, I was obsessed with maintaining my body fat percentage for fear of losing my value as a person.  I was fully convinced that my friends and family truly loved me more when I looked that way, and my love of myself followed suit.

When I gained weight, which often occurred when I loosened the reigns and allowed myself to live my life in college, I felt a deep sense of shame about my appearance and the fact that I had “let myself go”. Even during these joyful and fun-filled times, I oscillated between periods of pure joy, panic, and fear of the looming outcome—more fat on my body.

There wasn’t a time when I wasn’t obsessing, and this was irrespective of the state of my body.

The Chase Never Ends

My obsession with food went far beyond my body, and the underlying reasons shifted based on the stage of life I was in, but the pressure to fix “just one more thing” was endless.

While I inhabited the qualities noted above, I was and still am far from the absurd standards of beauty women are held to.

I have cellulite, I’m not “curvy in all the right places”—whatever the fuck that means, I’m flat-chested, I’m taller than many men at 5’10.5”, I’m really pale with freckles, and the list goes on and on.

With the endless list of qualities we’re told to embody simultaneously, as if we come with ala carte options, there is always one more thing for us to obsess over. One more thing to hustle for. One more way to feel as though we’re inadequate.

We see women who are walking around with insanely low levels of body fat and continue to obsess over their meals and exercise routines, because the issue isn’t our bodies themselves—it’s our subscription to the stories we’ve been told about where our value is derived from and other underlying emotional distress we’re often masking (such as my staunch subscription to perfectionism).

Others may include the need for control, binging to numb our emotions and subsequently starving to undo the “damage”, seeking love and attention, lack of self-worth and self-esteem, deflecting from other areas of our lives that are calling for our attention (like hating our job or an unhappy relationship), lack of authenticity in our lives, etc.

Our Bodies Don’t Determine Our Relationships with Food

I have worked with overweight and thin women, all of whom are constantly obsessing over every morsel of food. While their motivations can be different, their relationships with food are very similar.

To assume we know someone else’s story based on their appearance is short-sited, and it furthers the notion that we are defined by the way we look.

Lean women may be labeled as lucky and perfect, despite deep pain they may be masking, and overweight women are often labeled as lazy, despite the care they may show for their bodies.

This contributes to the problem on a larger scale, and it can also be deeply harmful to the individual.

It doesn’t serve us look to our appearance or those of others to determine what someone’s relationship with food “should” look like or assume we know what is true.

When we “should” each other, we miss the opportunity to connect with other women on the deep level we’re all seeking, and we collectively take a step back.

We all have a right to our story, our experiences, and our emotions, simply by virtue of them being our own, and we can take ownership of them while simultaneously recognizing our privilege and seeking to learning about the experiences of women in marginalized bodies.

This is a new-to-me conversation, so I welcome all feedback in an effort to learn more!

Intuitive Eating - Where Do I Start?

Intuitive eating seems to be gaining a lot of traction in the health and fitness realm, which is great! However, there is also a sufficient amount of confusion regarding the concept, as everyone defines it differently.

 I love myself a mid-day marg, especially in the summer! 

I love myself a mid-day marg, especially in the summer! 

Some also discount it completely, as it’s not black and white, but the hard-core, rigid dieting rules are the reason so many of us find ourselves in the bottom of the dieting rabbit hole to begin with.  These camps lead you to believe that intuitive eating will lead to binging 24/7 and that it's impossible to develop a relationship with our bodies based on awareness and trust.

The overarching premise behind intuitive eating is that we eat in accordance with our bodies’ signals, in addition to the added layers of preference, lifestyle, activities, and goals.

Solely eating according to our bodies signals can create additional spirals of guilt and shame, as there are times when we simply want to eat and drink for pleasure. The dessert after dinner? Definitely not hungry, but we choose to enjoy some. 

The extra glass of wine? Our bodies aren’t necessarily asking for it - our brains and emotions are. And these reasons are just as valid in the right context.

So if we’re supposed listen to our bodies, but we’re also free to listen to our emotions and thoughts, then how do we go about this, exactly? I completely understand the confusion.

How to get started

1.     First, we need to understand that this process takes time, as there isn’t one blueprint that everyone can follow. This means we can’t just look to Instagram or our friends to see how we should be eating—the onus is on us to learn what’s best for our bodies. Trial and error while practicing awareness is an absolute requirement as we unlearn the rules we’ve been given. Viewing this as a quick fix is a sure way to see the practice as a failure.

2.     Begin assessing your body’s feedback to understand what it likes and dislikes, and evaluate how it aligns with your actual taste preferences. For example, my taste buds love cheese and ice cream, but the rest of my body is not a fan in the least. Can I choose to eat dairy? Absolutely, and there are times I do, but I don’t make a habit of it. That would akin to hearing my body speak and essentially telling it to f*ck off. Not exactly the way to lay a foundation of trust, eh?

We can assess whether our bodies are jiving with said foods by taking inventory of changes in our skin, digestion, hormones, athletic performance, brain fog, and emotions.

3.     Become acquainted with your hunger and satiety signals (full post on how to do so here). I can’t emphasize how important this aspect is to the process. This isn’t to say that you’re unable choose to consciously override these signals. The key here is being aware enough to choose. However, you do need to become very familiar with what these signals feel like for you.

If you’re coming from any kind of dieting background, ignoring hunger signals is usually the element that needs the most attention. The more you give yourself permission to eat, the more hunger you’ll feel. Trust is essential here.

I’m a former member of the “clean your plate club” while simultaneously waiting until I felt like I was going to faint before eating, so I fully understand how uncomfortable and difficult this can be in the beginning. Over time you’ll be able to better understand what levels of hunger and satiety feel best for you, and you can adjust your food choices accordingly.

Why is this important? In order to accurately assess our hunger and satiety stages, we must practice awareness, and awareness lays the foundation of this entire practice. Additionally, becoming familiar with these cues is the gateway to understanding feedback from our bodies after ignoring them for so long, and it's an excellent trust builder.

4.     Awareness of why you make the choices you do. This is closely tied to point number three, as when we really pay attention to the times we eat when we’re not hungry, eat beyond satisfaction, intentionally under-eat, or ignore our hunger signals, we’re forced to face the potential discomfort of why we’re doing it.

Boredom, distraction, numbing, fear of eating full meals (we subsequently snack all the time), and feelings of unworthiness are common reasons, in addition to pleasure, connection with others, fuel for activities, and experiencing different cultures. As you can see, motivations can run the gamut, and confronting them isn't always easy. This step absolutely cannot be skipped, and while it can be uncomfortable, we’re better off for it.

5.     Assess how foods affect your athletic endeavors. I love to partake in strength training and crossfit, both of which require carbohydrates as the preferred fuel source. Through quite a bit of trial and error (another reason a coach is helpful—so you don’t have to endure that part for as long as I did!), I realized that my body needs upwards of 150g of carbs per day to feel happy and content (estimate, as I don’t track).  This is my minimum on most days, as I feel better eating more than this when I’m crossfitting frequently.

I learned this lesson the hard way after listening to the latest diet craze in lieu of listening to my body. Please don’t do that! Pay attention to how your body feels during and after workouts, including sleep, and make adjustments to your food choices and intake accordingly. Changes may include more food before a workout, eating more or less of a macronutrient before working out (more carbs for me, always), and/or eating more food in general.

Our bodies don’t know that we’re about to participate in a difficult workout, so don’t expect it to magically appear with hunger signals and cravings right before (as I did). This is where deviation from our hunger signals is absolutely warranted and encouraged. Although, I want to be clear that you can choose to override your hunger and satiety signals at any point, with the preference being that it's conscious.

6.     Become familiar with what is worth it to you. This is what I consider to be the final step, as we can’t make a proper evaluation of what foods and drink are worth it to us if we haven’t completed the steps above. We must first incur sufficient trial and error to understand if under or overeating, not sleeping, screwing up our hormones or digestion, numbing or distracting, and performing better or worse in our physical pursuits is worth it to us when we’re evaluating the choices in front of us.

Some examples: I usually find two glasses of wine to be worth it, but a third isn’t on most days. Is it worth it to eat when I’m not hungry before a workout so that I’m able to perform better? Absolutely. Is a slice of pizza or bowl of ice cream worth the digestive distress I’ll experience later? Sometimes—depends on the company I’m with and how special the food is. I’m not going to put myself through that level of discomfort for some basic, run of the mill foods, you know?

As you can see, the concept of intuitive eating requires time and effort, most notably in the beginning, and it most certainly necessitates a high level of awareness. This leads to many people’s eyes glazing over, as they don’t want to make that investment.

Being told what, how, and when to eat removes much of the burden, and I fully understand the appeal. Not only does it allow us to turn our brains off, but we also believe this method will lead to clearly defined results.

But play that out in the long run—where does that path lead you over the next 5-10 years? Chances are, you see yourself desperately clinging to another plan, still lacking any semblance of trust in your choices and your body.

Through the practice of intuitive eating, we’re able to finally join the same team as our bodies, we’re empowered to trust in the signals we receive and our subsequent choices, and we’re able to make room for the shit that really matters in life.

Are you ready?

Email me for more information on one-on-one coaching to get started!

"I Have More Important Shit to Think About" - My Response to my Recent Weight Gain

These are the words I whispered to myself last week in the midst of my frustration with my pants fitting too tightly. Too tightly being defined as quite uncomfortable to wear, despite the supposed stretch in the denim.

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During the last 3-4 months, I have gained 7-10 lbs., and I don’t know if it’s water weight due to the inflammation from the Hashimoto’s or actual fat gain. In the end, it doesn’t really matter, as the end result feels the same—I’m uncomfortable in a few pairs of the jeans I fit into quite easily a few months ago.

As I stood in front of the mirror, confused and frustrated as to why I happened to gain this weight despite remaining active and eating as I usually do, my inner voice chimed in and said “I have more important shit to think about.”

I then proceeded to do a mindset calibration to re-center myself, put on a different pair of pants that fit more comfortably, and moved on with my day.

It’s easy for us to proclaim self-love and confidence when we feel comfortable in the bodies we’ve become accustomed to, and even more so when we fit society’s ideal of thin, white, straight, and cis-gender (as I do). The latter point is a topic I will cover in an upcoming blog post, but the former is a testament to my current experience and those of the women I work with.

It’s easy to neglect our maintenance work of not defining ourselves based on our appearance when we look a way in which we feel comfortable. Or when we fit into the same clothing sizes we’ve become accustomed to for years.

The true test is when our bodies morph into something outside of this realm of comfort—into something that feels foreign.

The reality is that our bodies are absolutely going to change throughout our lives, and there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it. Additionally, there are times when our bodies are going to change based on factors within our control. These typically include a deviation from our usual habits in response to an adjustment in priorities (travel, holidays, weddings, work, family, etc.).

The changes within our control can be easier to accept, as we understand we’re willingly participating. The changes outside of our control, such as health issues, pregnancy, and aging can be more difficult to accept due to the lack of control.

When we find yourself in a situation where our bodies have changed, or we’re overwhelmed with the need to control our food and exercise due to fear of our bodies changing as our priorities do, we must first accept and acknowledge the situation.

Don’t run from it, and don’t go down the path of distraction with destructive habits. Sit with it, say it aloud to yourself, and ask yourself the following:

1.     What are the things in life that provide me with the most meaning right now? These may include family, close friends, being active, new experiences traveling or with eating/drinking, pursuing a meaningful career or hobby, time in nature, self-development, a spiritual practice, our own health or that of a loved one. Your appearance may be on the list, and that’s completely fine. However, you need to be honest with yourself about where this lies within your ranking of priorities.

For me, my health, family, friends, career, and time in nature are the most important things to me at the moment, and these define the “more important shit” I refer to above.

2.     Am I willing to sacrifice any of my other priorities in pursuit of changing my body? I’m not simply referring to time here, as mental and physical energy are major resources that are diluted by constantly thinking about our bodies and food. 

Last week, I asked myself, “Am I really going to spend my precious energy thinking about these changes to my body when I have creative and professional ambitions and a summer to enjoy with my loved ones?” The answer is no. Especially, when I’m focusing on treating my body with respect via nourishment, rest, and movement already.

3.     What do I contribute to this world that is of the greatest value? Creating valuable content to help others, general creativity, being there for family and friends, providing entertainment, uplifting others, being a teacher, acting as a confidante—these are all worthwhile attributes that begin a laundry list of items people can ascribe to. The way our bodies look is at the bottom of the barrel—they don’t actually contribute anything to the world, and the constant pursuit of changing our bodies detracts from our time and energy being spent on these more important items.

4.     How can I make my body and mind feel supported right now? This might be eating less inflammatory and processed foods, drinking less alcohol, eating more food, more rest and self-care, more alone time, more time connecting with others, time outdoors, meditation, yoga, weightlifting, journaling, reading, wearing clothes that fit. It can be one or all of these things, in addition to a plethora of others.

The point is, focus on what you can do to better serve your body and mind, not go to war with them. Remember, we’re on the same team.

5.     What am I grateful for that my body does for me right now? This is especially relevant when dealing with health issues or experiencing changes that are outside of our realm of control, as it’s easy to believe our bodies are betraying us. Admittedly, I subscribed to the victim mindset upon hearing of my Hashimoto’s diagnosis, and it was tempting to throw my hands in the air and play the blame game.

I eventually acknowledged the unhelpful and soul-sucking nature of this mindset, and I began to focus on what my body can do and how it shows up for me every day. Our bodies are just trying to survive and, dare I say thrive.  Sometimes we need to give them some breathing room to do their thing.

Turning our frustration into gratitude

These body changes can be alarming initially, but they’re incredibly valuable. They force us to look inward and assess our alignment with our truth and where we’re placing our value.

The universe has a funny way of giving us lessons that still need to be learned, and it’s evident that I needed an internal “tune up”, if you will. For this lesson, I am grateful, as I needed the roots of my worthiness to be planted further within myself—not in anything external.

I’ve been doing this internal work for years, yet this caught me off guard and forced me to acknowledge that I have been functioning on auto-pilot for some time.

This isn’t anything to be ashamed of, as it’s common for us to settle into a new “normal” and label that as our relative zone of comfort. However, as we know, we don’t grow in our comfort zones.

Our bodies and lives are not static, and they’re never going to be. The more we can learn to accept and move with these changes, the better off we’ll be. And the more time and energy we’ll have to focus on the more important shit.

What's Your Dogmatic Approach to Nutrition?

This question would have yielded a different answer depending on the stage of my life it was asked. In high school, Gary Taubes released “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and Atkins was all the rage, so I was vehemently against carbohydrates.

 Photo by @jessicatootoo. I tried to find a diet or nutrition book, but then I remembered that I purged my collection a couple years ago. Highly recommend!

Photo by @jessicatootoo. I tried to find a diet or nutrition book, but then I remembered that I purged my collection a couple years ago. Highly recommend!

In college, this mindset continued until a guy in one of my classes, a bodybuilder, started talking to me about the need for long duration cardio sessions coupled with a low-calorie diet. Hmmm—seemed contradictory to everything I swore up and down to with my “low carb, calories don’t matter” approach. I wasn’t continuing to see results with my low carb ways though, so I took the plunge and gave it a whirl.

I proceeded to lose weight rather quickly, which of course led to a rapid rebound a few months later, but I then pledged allegiance to this approach.

After all, if it worked for me once, that means it’s universally applicable to all bodies as a long-term approach to a healthy lifestyle, right? :)

After my college graduation, I read in the popular fitness magazines that a vegetarian diet was the key to fat loss, so I adopted one for a few months while exclusively doing yoga. This was actually a very calm and healing time in my life, but I assumed that a centered, meditation-focused lifestyle had to be accompanied by meat-free meals and yoga. I lost weight over the course of a few months, so I assumed I would continue this lifestyle forever.

Upon moving to Denver, heavy drinking resurfaced in my life, and my yoga and plant-based lifestyle quickly went out to window. Plus, I just feel so much better eating meat!  Crossfit was becoming popular at the time, as was the often-accompanying Paleo diet, so I dove head first into reading about the success stories and adopted one shortly thereafter. Save for the binge drinking, of course.

High-intensity interval training coupled with a grain-free, dairy-free diet became my new bible, and I thought I had struck a gold mine. This is a diet based off the eating regiments of cavemen, so it made sense to me that our bodies would respond favorably. Suddenly, every other approach to eating seemed ludicrous.

Fast forward a few years, and there are still times when I have to consciously choose to throw these dogmatic beliefs in the garbage. And yes, many of them are contradictory, so that only adds to the confusion.

The appealing aspect of each of these dogmatic approaches to nutrition is their hardcore, black-and-white rules. They eliminate the need to think for ourselves, to tune into our own bodies, or to practice any form of awareness.

We abide by the strict lists of foods, eating times, and portion sizes, and we’re then able to turn our brains off. However, this is also the reason the wheels fall off the bus the minute we go “off plan."

Follow a dogmatic nutritional approach for any length of time greater than a few weeks, and you’ll likely forget how to work with your body when it comes to your food choices.

These approaches are sexy, as they often provide drastic before-and-after results. (Let’s not get into what those people actually look like a year after that “after” photo is taken).

Tuning into our bodies, practicing awareness, digging into the reasons why we’re reaching for food, playing the long game—these aren’t sexy. They require turning inward, a sufficient amount of trial and error, and time.

But wouldn’t it be great to only have to go through this process once, despite it requiring more time and effort upfront? To never have to settle into another camp of dogma and extremity?

If you’re answer is yes, then you can take a few action steps today towards liberating yourself:

  1. Give up the desire to change your body, at least for some time. This doesn’t have to mean forever, but if you’re simultaneously trying to control your body, you’re going to have a very difficult time releasing your controlling ways around food and establishing your baseline eating framework.
  2. Learn your hunger signals and begin to abide by them. This is very simple yet difficult-to-implement behavior can be a game changer for many people. Observe when you’re usually eating on this scale today and adjust your behaviors according to your satiety and hunger signals after you’ve taken the time to uncover them. It takes time to change these deeply-rooted behaviors, so be sure to show yourself plenty of patience and grace while you’re re-integrating yourself with your body.

Please note that it’s perfectly fine to overeat or eat when not hungry, the key is to engage in these behaviors consciously!

These two steps are meaty, so they often require support to continue on the path when temptation to revert back to those comfortable, dogmatic approaches surfaces.

If you find it difficult to go at this alone, I’m here for you with my one-on-one coaching, and you can email be here for more information!

My Recent Hashimoto's Diagnosis & What I've Learned Thus Far

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, and this post is not a substitute for professional care. This is meant for informational purposes only. Consult with a medical professional before making any changes.  

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Over the last six months, my health silently deteriorated to a point that prompted me to get a few blood tests done, and I was told shortly thereafter that I have Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid gland. While this diagnosis is very recent, I am sharing my experience in an effort to make others feel less “crazy” (as I did with all of my symptoms) and to seek medical care if any of these symptoms sounds familiar. You’ll see why as you read further.

The Beginning

Beginning in November 2017, my sleep really started to suffer, and I would wake up exhausted even after a full night’s rest. As a morning person, this was unusual for me. I was training for a Crossfit competition with some friends at the time, so I chalked it up to pushing too hard and perhaps being overly stressed. This may have been the cause, but this is the beginning of my downhill spiral.

My digestion has always been inconsistent, but it was kicked into high gear towards the end of December and has continued since then. My period disappeared shortly thereafter, and when I returned from a trip to El Salvador in February, my stomach was in a sufficient amount of pain. Again, I’m no stranger to digestive issues, but extreme bloating and pain in my upper stomach was foreign to me.

I called my GP back home, and he said I had likely contracted a parasite while traveling and prescribed me an antibiotic. Within a few days, the pain subsided.

I was hopeful after experiencing some relief from my stomach pain—I needed a health win at that point—but things continued to go downhill after that trip.

My Symptoms

  • Sleep – I was unable to fall asleep, and when I did, I would be wide awake at 2-3 in the morning with a racing heart, only to fall asleep an hour or two later and wake up completely exhausted.
  • Night Sweats – I experienced night sweats frequently despite sleeping in a 65-degree apartment, and I was soaked through my clothes and onto my sheets. This has since subsided in the last two weeks (win!).
  • Extreme fatigue – As I noted above, I have been an energetic morning person my entire life, so wanting to crawl under my desk at 2pm was not only odd, but really uncomfortable. I had to pinch myself to stay awake during meetings and while driving, and it felt as though my eyelids were attached to weights. Not the best look at work.
  • Inability to complete workouts – I’ve been doing Crossfit for almost four years; attending classes at least three times per week. While I can certainly see a connection with my performance and stressful periods in my life, I struggled to make it through one or two workouts per week. It felt as though I had 10% of the fuel in the tank that I normally did. I was eating enough and taking plenty of rest days, but my body just couldn’t do it.
  • Vertigo – this was really concerning to me, and I first experienced it while driving about six weeks ago after never experiencing it previously. This continued for a few weeks and has since subsided in frequency.
  • Brain Fog – This is one of the most frustrating symptoms, and I’m currently experiencing this full force. Hence the reason it’s taking me far, far too long to write this postJ I have been under-slept many times (as most people are) and have experienced slower brain-processing speed as a result, but this is different. I lose my words frequently and feel as though my brain and life are moving through mud.
  • Mood changes – there is entirely too much stigma around anxiety and depression, but both of these are common with Hashimoto’s.  I have been a fairly even-keeled and calm person for most of my life, save for my low-carb dieting days (I was SO moody), but I began experiencing anxiety with my heart beating out of my chest at the most random times, and I would then feel down for hours afterwards. I also found myself to be more short-tempered, and things that typically wouldn’t bother me in the slightest were causing me to snap. These swings have lessened since I’ve made a concerted effort to stop intense exercise and meditate more, but they’re still showing up on a weekly basis.
  • Inflammation – I have gained around ten pounds since February, and while I’m sure some of that is water weight due to the inflammation, the sudden changes were another sign that something wasn’t right. This was especially true after Crossfit workouts—I was unable to put pants on the next day and my joints were throbbing for days after.

I want to emphasize that these symptoms can certainly be attributable to a multitude of underlying issues, and based on what I have read thus far, everyone’s triggers for autoimmune diseases are different and multi-factorial. I would caution anyone against assuming Hashimoto’s if any of the symptoms above resonate. This was simply my experience, and the combination of them prompted concerns over the state of my health.

Essentially, I felt and continue to feel like I have a gnarly combination of a hangover and PMS all the time.

My quality of life seemed to be deteriorating by the day, and I was starting to feel like a stranger in my own body and mind. I told myself that these issues would resolve themselves and that I was likely being overly dramatic. After all, we live in an under-slept society, so everyone is tired. Who am I to think I’m special and complain?

I was discussing my concerns with my hair stylist (the keepers of all secrets), and she suggested I see a Nurse Practitioner who had recently joined the salon. She specializes in women’s hormones, was able to draw blood on the spot, and she’s relatively inexpensive. I firmly believe that knowledge is power, so I made an appointment to get a status update.

Results

As I understand it, most traditional doctors will only check TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and perhaps T3 and T4, and after mulling over all of my labs from the last five years, I can confirm this to be true in my experience. None of them included thyroid antibodies. For some reason, this nurse checked my TSH, Free T3, Free T4, and my TPO antibodies (one of two thyroid antibodies), and my antibodies were well above the reference ranges (many consider under 35 IU/ml to be normal; mine were 485 IU/ml).

Upon hearing I had Hashimoto’s, I was simultaneously relieved (I’m not crazy!) and scared, as I didn’t know anything about it. I scheduled an appointment with a new-to-me doctor that night (I rarely go to the doctor, so I don’t have a local GP), and I began obsessively reading about Hashimoto’s in hopes of reading stories of remission.

I don’t like to be in a position where I feel helpless—in fact, I despise it. My doctor doesn’t want to put blinders on and assume the root cause of anything I’m experiencing, which I greatly appreciate, but left to my own devices, I will take action into my own hands.

This means I’ve been listening to an endless number of podcasts and reading books and blogs about others’ experiences in an effort to arm myself with information and questions for my doctor. However, this has also been a source of additional stress for me—something my body doesn’t need at the moment—so I’m making a concerted effort to take a breather right now and wait for more information.

What I’ve Learned Thus Far

  • Autoimmune diseases are confusing AF, and there doesn’t appear to be a lot of conclusive evidence on how to put them into remission. What works for one person doesn’t work for another, so a sufficient amount of trial and error seems inevitable.
  • I haven’t done a Crossfit workout in about three weeks, and a few of the symptoms like joint pain, waking in the middle of the night, and night sweats have greatly dissipated since then. Based on this, I’m guessing Hashimoto’s isn’t the only issue here, or perhaps the intense workouts were exacerbating the issue.
  • Hashimoto’s primarily affects women, as do most autoimmune diseases.
  • Most traditional doctors won’t test for thyroid antibodies unless your thyroid hormones are out of range. However, increased antibodies may eventually lead to damage of the thyroid and subsequent hypothyroidism. As such, if you don’t feel well despite normal hormone ranges, it may not be a bad idea to request the antibodies. Based on my most recent set of labs, I may have caught the progression early enough before damage has been done to my thyroid.
  • The vast majority of remission stories I’ve read involved partnership with a functional/alternative medicine doctor as opposed to an endocrinologist or GP. I believe this is primarily due to the lack of evidence around appropriate treatment, so traditional doctors are less inclined to go through a process of trial and error to reduce antibodies (**note that I’m completely speculating here). I’m hoping I can leverage my traditional doctor and alternative approaches as needed, but only time will tell.
  • Dietary interventions may help. Some sources say everyone with Hashimoto’s should be strictly gluten free, while others claim there is only a small percentage of people who benefit from such a change. As I noted above, everyone’s triggers and experiences with autoimmune diseases are different, so there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. I intend to make as few lifestyle changes as possible to experience progress, but I am gluten-free for now under the direction of my doctor. I don’t want to be a hero or dogmatic unnecessarily.
  • I need to be more forthcoming when it comes to advocating for my health. It’s common for healthy people to become obsessive about their health and blow things out of proportion, and oftentimes the fundamental bases like sleep, nutrition, social connection, stress, and movement still need to be addressed. I always turn to these first, but my symptoms were beginning to seem insurmountable alone, despite making changes to my lifestyle.

I feared being labeled as dramatic or a hypochondriac, so I began to doubt my experiences and plowed through as best I could. I have read many stories of women with Hashimoto’s doing the same thing, only to have seriously deteriorated health (and thyroid glands) years later. We don’t need to have it all together, all the time.

  • Health issues likes this can be isolating, as they’re not readily apparent to others. I can put on a happy face, pretend like I feel like myself, and act like all is well, and I was doing this for a few months. This diagnosis has liberated me in a sense, as I can put a name to my experience, but I should have been more forthcoming about my struggles sooner. I’m fortunate to have tremendous support in family and friends, and one of my girlfriends is going through a very similar experience (we were both diagnosed within the same week), so we’re supporting eachother through the challenges.

After telling a wise friend about my disappointment with the diagnosis, she responded by telling me to feel the negativity, frustration, anger, and sadness, but that I’m not allowed to stay there. That place can’t become my new normal. Ever since that conversation, my emotions have subtly shifted towards acceptance and hope, and I intend to continue expanding upon this growth mindset.

I currently oscillate between feeling hopeless, disappointed, and overwhelmed—wondering if I’m ever going to feel like my old self physically, emotionally, and mentally again or if it’s going to get worse—and then being grateful for this experience.  I’ve known deep-down for some time that I need to slow down and stop pushing myself, and this is forcing me to do so.

I still have every intention of focusing on my health and getting back to baseline as quickly as possible, but I also know there are great lessons to be learned during these experiences.

Given the high number of women who suffer from Hashimoto’s, I’ll share my experiences here in the hopes of helping and connecting with others. I’d love to hear about your experiences too!

Should You Track Your Food?

It’s difficult to engage in any sort of nutrition or fitness modalities these days without a negative association, and tracking food is no exception. We’re quick to label the behavior as obsessive, and while that can certainly be the case, is it always?

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Similar to my thoughts on the scale, our intentions behind our actions and how we view or relate to the data are extremely important.

For example, one woman may be counting macros (macronutrients—carbs, fats, proteins) in Myfitnesspal to ensure she’s adequately fueled for her workouts while losing fat at a reasonable pace. She is firm in the notion that her worth isn’t derived from her body, she decided to make changes to her body based on her own volition, and she views the results of tracking as an objective measurement (i.e. she doesn’t get emotional if she goes over the numbers). She also understands that this is a temporary method and is using it as an opportunity to learn more about her body.

Alternatively, another woman is tracking her macros in Myfitnesspal to mold her body in an effort to gain approval from others, and she is hoping a new body will be the answer to her unhappiness and lack of self-worth. She views herself as a failure when she goes over her numbers, and she develops a lack of trust in her body. She isn’t tuned into what her body is telling her and solely relies on the data from Myfitnesspal—thus, she begins to believe she will lose control if she ever stops tracking.

Both of these women are tracking their food, yet the intention behind the action and their relationships to the data are completely different.

In my experience, few women fall into the category of the first example, as it takes a sufficient amount of introspection and unraveling of narratives to get there. Only after completing the work of firmly understanding our worth is inherent, knowing where the motivation to make aesthetic changes comes from, and understanding that tracking should usually be used as a temporary means of learning about our body are we ready.

And sometimes, we believe we meet all the criteria above, only to begin tracking and spiral into old thought patterns and behaviors. This can mean there is more internal work to be done, but it can also indicate that tracking isn’t in alignment with our personalities and/or priorities.

Assessing the criteria below is helpful to determine if you’re ready for tracking.

You may be well-suited for tracking if:

  • You have done the introspective work and firmly understand that changes to your body don’t impact your value or worth as a human being. (non-negotiable)
  • You thrive off of numbers, data, and facts (I do not fall into this category).
  • You have consistent eating habits already, eat mostly whole foods, and you want to dial things in a little further to see changes in performance or aesthetics.
  • You have an athletic event or meet coming up and you need to “make weight”.
  • Your energy has been subpar, and you want to identify opportunities for improvement.
  • You understand that tracking isn’t to be used in lieu of tuning into your body, although this may lead to overriding hunger or satiety signals. You understand that maintaining a mindful relationship with our bodies is still very important when tracking.
  • You look at the data objectively (i.e. if you go over your numbers, you don’t view yourself as a bad person or attach any sort of good/bad connotation)

You may not be ready for tracking if:

  • You believe the results of tracking are the key to your happiness and self-worth.
  • You haven’t done any introspective work to unravel your relationship to your body or the intentions behind making changes.
  • Your eating habits are inconsistent and your diet largely consists of processed foods.
  • Data and numbers stress you out, which is common with those who have a previously obsessive or disordered relationship with food.
  • You attach emotions to the data rather than looking at them objectively. I.e. “I’m good because I went under or was on target.” Or “I’m bad because I went over my numbers.”
  • You’re seeking a method of control in your life because everything seems inconsistent elsewhere. You believe tracking will provide the control and sense of calm you’re seeking.
  • You plan to track forever, as you don’t have a mindful connection to your body and don’t trust that you can make decisions on your own.
  • You don’t know your body’s hunger and satiety cues or your emotional triggers for eating.

Tracking food isn’t inherently bad, but it can cause former thought patterns and habits to resurface if we used to dwell in the land of disordered eating. Alternatively, it can also be an extremely valuable tool when used mindfully and from a self-assured foundation.

Deciding whether tracking food is right for you requires an honest look at where you are currently, both physically and mentally, and the true intentions behind wanting to implement this method.

If you find yourself in the midst of tracking and realize that it wasn’t the right decision for you based on what is noted above, then I recommend making small adjustments to relinquish the habit. If you decide to give it up in one fell swoop, then that’s great, but that approach can lead to a lot of anxiety for many.

An alternative approach is to remove one rigid component of tracking at a time. If you weigh and measure your food, then eyeball your portions for one meal while still recording your food intake. Next week, eyeball another meal, and continue until you’re no longer weighing or measuring any food.

At this point, you can then begin to loosen the reigns on tracking your food intake, which is commonly done in an app like Myfitnesspal. Again, start with one meal at a time, and you’ll slowly begin to trust yourself and your body.

If you’re not sure what the best approach is for you, then start by honestly assessing your intentions—they provide an accurate depiction of the current state of your foundation.  This process often requires support and a heavy focus on mindset, so using a coach for guidance and support can be very helpful.

Lacking a Strong Sense of Self? It F*cks with Our Relationship with Food

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A strong sense of self can be a bitch to create in today’s society, particularly for women. We’re taught from a young age that our most valuable currency is our appearance—that playing the part of what it means to be a woman will ensure our worth and safety in this world.

With so much emphasis placed on our shells, we often neglect the effort of discovering who we are beneath the surface and acting accordingly.

Quite honestly, the notion that I needed to do such a thing was foreign to me until my early to mid 20s. There’s a multi-dimensional, complex human enveloped by this body of mine?  Who knew?

I focused so much of my energy on molding my physical body to societal standards that I failed to realize I had unconsciously done the same with my personality. A once confident and carefree child became a young woman afraid to establish boundaries and fearful of speaking her mind.

Lest I be labeled a bitch.

You see, growing up as a female in today’s world, we’re taught that our personalities must become small and that we exist to appease others.

No one wants to be “that girl”—the one with a bold and boisterous personality who takes no shit, who shines light on her intelligence, who asks for help, who freely shares her thoughts and opinions, who says “no” when she needs to take care of herself or when she simply doesn’t want to.

As a result of showcasing these remarkable traits, we risk being labeled as “too much”, too outspoken, cocky, needy, selfish, or having too much masculine energy.

We’re often expected to be docile, quiet, sweet, and to exist for the benefit of others. People pleasing, anyone?

***For the record, there is nothing wrong with these qualities—I regularly inhabit these, but this is an authentic expression to me. Similarly, inhabiting the less stereotypical female qualities may be inauthentic to some, and that's a-ok!

The more we quell our true selves, our authentic personalities, our needs, and our desires, the more we internalize the notion that our value and worth is based on our appearance.  Essentially, we’re led to believe that the world doesn’t care about who we are—only what we are.

As a result of this conditioning, all of our energy is put into molding our bodies, our minds, and our expressions of ourselves into that which will provide us safety, value, and love.

In reality, we’re left with anything but. Rather, we’re often met with depression, anxiety, confusion, low self-esteem, competition with other women, and a severely deflated version of ourselves.

Making the Shift

If we shift the focus of our value and worth to who we are beneath the surface, we begin to understand that we are SO much more than our bodies.

We learn about our own personal values, our interests and dreams, our strengths and weaknesses, our unique quirks and qualities, our conditioning, how to enforce boundaries with others, how to express ourselves openly and freely, the people we do and don’t want in our lives, etc.

There may just be a salty, funny, loud, opinionated, quirky, or commandeering woman waiting to reveal herself.

By uncovering these qualities as they ring true to you and slowly expressing them (baby steps usually work best here), we begin to place less importance on our appearance.

The more we hone in on who we are, who we want to be, and take ownership of this development, we eventually begin shift our own sense of worthiness from our appearance to our internal landscape.

Thus, food carries less emotional weight, and we begin to view it as our ally in nourishment, enjoyment, and connection.

We place less emphasis on food, as it’s no longer viewed as the gateway to our self-worth.