Healthy was never something I had to think about being growing up. It just came with the territory. I’ve been an athlete all my life. I was captain of the basketball and volleyball teams throughout school. Played college volleyball. Then, coached collegiate volleyball until my son was born. So, why is this post called “How I Lost 30 lbs?” Well….
For you to fully understand my story, let’s take you all the way back to the very beginning…
THE PAST // Migraines and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
It all started for me around the middle school years. Hormones mixed with the anxieties of fitting in and making school teams really did a number on my health. Plus, that’s when I started wearing glasses and contacts. I would only get a migraine about once a year, around volleyball season, the most stressful time. I would take a Tylenol PM, sleep it off, and be ready to go the next day.
- A migraine, for me, starts with an aura. (flashing lights, dark sparkly spots, moving hazy shadows) When I explain it to people, it’s like I basically lose my vision in different places for 45 minutes. Another similar explanation is when you look at the sun or have a photo taken with a really strong flash…you have a few seconds of temporary blindness. When I get an aura, it isn’t painful, just very frustrating because of the temporary moving blindness. It is also a warning of sorts. I know once I have an aura, I have 45 minutes before the very painful migraine begins.
IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) was a completely different beast to tackle. If I was nervous, anxious, or ate something spicy-chocolately-ice creamy-etc you name it, it seemed like I was in the bathroom. I went to doctor appointment after doctor appointment, gave vile of blood after vile of blood…finally they diagnosed me with IBS at 12 years old. They gave me medicine to take when I felt lousy and things seemed to get better.
PREGNANCY // Everything goes downhill…for my health.
I learned how to cope with my illnesses. The doctors had told me that I would most likely grow out of it and I did fairly well. I learned that I may have a migraine once a year around a stressful time and that Imodium was my BFF before any big game throughout high school and college. Fast forward through college and the first couple years of marriage. All was going great. Then God gave us our greatest gift, a child. My plan was to keep life as normal as I could. I was even training for a half-marathon when I found out I was pregnant. My doctors said I could keep with what I was doing before baby, as long as I felt comfortable. I actually ran 12 miles at 8 weeks pregnant. Saying that now is mind blowing…but I had been training and I didn’t want to give that up if I didn’t have to. Unfortunately, as I kept growing a baby inside of me, my body revolted…
Pregnancy was not easy for me. My IBS-D went to IBS-C, but I couldn’t take many medicines to help. It was very uncomfortable…and I’m sure my eating habits didn’t help. *darn cravings* At 7 months along I started having migraines bi-weekly. Without any medicine to help, it was horrific. I felt useless, because that’s what migraines do to you. You can’t get out of bed. You can’t go anywhere. The pain just takes over. During those last handful of months, I was borderline everything. Borderline diabetic. Borderline preeclampsia (that’s why I ended up being induced at 38 weeks because it turned into full blown PE). I was so relieved when labor came. I thought I had hit rock bottom with my heath issues and that we could only go up from there. Boy I was wrong…
LIFE AFTER BABY // What life can you have in pain?
I settled into motherhood, but my body didn’t settle down. I mean, didn’t it get the memo that the baby was out!? My body could resume back to its regularly scheduled programming, right!? That was a big NO. It didn’t get that memo, and probably never would. My IBS turned into what we thought may be a blockage. A friend at the time referred me to a gastroenterologist. I was immediately booked for an endoscopy and a colonoscopy. They did a biopsy and all turned up normal, just very inflamed. I was put on daily meds (Hyoscyamine) and continued to be labeled with IBS.
But my migraines on the other hand…they were
bad out of control. Looking back, I’m sure it was a mixture of hormones, stress from a huge life change, and diet from me grabbing whatever I could eat between feeding another human with my own body. I was having migraines bi-weekly still, but every time I had one I couldn’t get rid of it!? Meaning, I would have an aura (remember my explanation at the beginning of the this super long *yeah sorry about that* post), migraine, take a Tylenol PM, pass out, get up, have another aura, have another migraine, take another Tylenol PM, pass out again, ditto, ditto, ditto… So much so that I couldn’t bend over without feeling like my head was going to explode. Nor could I touch the top of my head without feeling like someone was stabbing it with a machete. This was not normal and not a life a 25 year old should be living.
Desperate for answers, we called the family doctor and the she called in a few scans and blood work. All was normal. I was put on preventative medicine daily and sent to a neurologist…one of SEVERAL I would see throughout my *now* 30 year old life. I remember feeling very unheard. I felt like a few different neurologists would just throw very high level pain meds my way and called it a day. They didn’t look into WHY or WHAT might be causing my pain. To say I was frustrated would be an understatement. However, my preventative meds (Propranolol) from my family doc seemed to help and as more and more time passed from my pregnancy, my migraines went from bi-weekly to bi-monthly…to every 3 months. Then it was just sporadic, seeming to strike at very stressful times.
THE PRESENT // We are over medicated and under informed.
At this point, every time I had a migraine I would (and still currently) get a shot at my doctor or the nearest ER/Urgent Care. It’s the only thing that kills it. Each time I would come in for my “cocktail” (Toradol, Phenergan, and Benadryl) she would be really concerned that we weren’t fixing the issue. So, we would talk about options. About a 1.5 years back I agreed that I struggle with anxiety and that stress seemed to be a long time trigger for my migraines and IBS. She had me try another medicine, but this one was an antidepressant/anti-anxiety med (Celexa) to try to counteract and stop the “stress” trigger of my health issues. The first few weeks were great. No headaches, I was suuuper happy lol, my belly was good…all was well in the world. Then my pants seemed to be getting tighter. My face seemed to be swelling up. I could no longer wear my wedding rings. I got on the scale and within EIGHT WEEKS I had gained TWENTY POUNDS. This just added to my stress. I mean, you can’t tell me that an average woman wants to gain weight!? I’m sure some of you are sitting there reading, thinking…duh Jessica, most antidepressant/anti-anxiety meds make you gain weight. And you would be right. But when you are in pain and you can’t figure out how to fix it, you will try just about anything your doctor suggests to you. That was the position I was in. I was sick of all the “after the fact” high-level pain meds, I was sick of the shots…so I tried it. FAIL. Yet again… and this time I needed to lose extra weight.
I researched the only thing I hadn’t at this point. Holistic. Both of my health issues are caused by inflammation in the body. If my diet was aligned just right, my research suggested that I could significantly reduce the inflammation occurring in my body, therefore reducing the symptoms I was experiencing because of the inflammation…migraines and IBS. I knew I wasn’t a “diet person” because I had tried few in my day and never stuck with any. I knew if I wanted to do this the right way I needed an expert. One of my wonderful Instagram followers led me to nutritionist, Courtney Rinehold, and LEAP MRT testing. With the help of Courtney, I sent a blood sample out to a lab in Florida to test different foods/chemicals/additives for levels of reactions. The results were sent back to me color coded: green (less reactive), yellow (moderately reactive), and red (highly reactive). Based on these results, she set me up on an elimination diet. Want to know what my highest reactive foods were? Corn, vanilla, mango, blueberry. I mean CORN is in EVERYTHING!? Cornstarch, corn syrup… Same for vanilla! Here is what Courtney’s website officially says about the testing:
Using the LEAP Mediator Release Test (MRT) (which tests 130 food and 20 chemicals/additives), Courtney will create an individualized anti-inflammatory diet to eliminate reactive items and help resolve food sensitivity issues. Even healthy foods can provoke symptoms in sensitive individuals. Though it is an elimination diet, you don’t have to start out removing everything! You will start eating your lowest reactive foods (based on your testing results), and gradually add foods back in with the guidance of your CLT!
Why it works? Because what works for one person isn’t right for everyone! This anti-inflammatory nutrition plan/elimination diet is made for you using your non-reactive/lowest reactive foods. Gradually you add foods back in to monitor your response…
HOW I LOST THE WEIGHT // ….and the meds.
I followed the 6 month plan to a T. I mean I was dedicated. So much so that I stopped taking my meds within the first two months. To me it was the only way I would know FOR SURE what was working. *not advised* With Courtney’s guidance I basically cooked whatever I could get my hands on that followed the foods on my 6 phase LEAP diet. The first few phases were the hardest. I changed my entire lifestyle. One of the hardest things was just the socializing of eating out with family and friends. Of course I could go, but it was so stinkin’ hard to NOT EAT OR DRINK any of the “no-no’s” when you’re at a restaurant…because you just don’t know exactly what ingredients they put inside everything. So, it’s easier to be a recluse at the beginning. *Remember everyone is different. What I am super reactive to, you may be the least reactive to. Which means you may be able to have the foods I couldn’t at the beginning* My grocery list was ridiculously unlike it had ever been. No chicken, no tomatoes, no corn of course…so no popcorn-etc, no chips (WHAT!?!?!?!), no cheese, no pizza, and many others. What I could have was turkey, pork, peanut butter (YAY!), maple syrup, pecans, almonds, cinnamon, sugar *yes, organic sugar*, and drum roll please….potatoes!!! (plus more) It was all about what foods I could combine together and not get bored with during the first few phases. I learned a lot about cooking in those 6 months, let me tell ya! I learned to combine foods I never thought of to make meals that really worked! Courtney was very helpful and knowledgeable letting me know what foods I could have in those phases and what was actually made with those foods. Example: I could have lentil beans, which meant I could actually buy lentil noodles to make lentil pasta, then toss it in some ghee (google it- it’s a type of butter that I could have that wasn’t tainted with the corn protein from the cows). I also made turkey/lamb/pork meatballs to go with the pasta at one point. Another meal I made ALL.THE.TIME. was pork chops covered in almond flour, seared in olive oil with sweet potatoes cooked in olive oil, seasoned with cinnamon and sugar. A very quick meal I would cook if I was lazy was anything using ground turkey. I’m telling you, I never went hungry. TIP: I would cook double what I would need for dinner and take the extras for lunch the next day. That was my way of “meal prepping” without actually having to. The key was to follow my LEAP phases and never cheat. Which to me, cheating meant being sick…and I had already went through enough of that.
I noticed as I cut out the fried fast food/processed foods and started eating foods my body wasn’t reactive to, I was feeling good. More energy. Less headaches. More “regular”. My fingernails were even stronger. Was it easy to cook all the time? Heck no. But, I got into the swing of things as time went on… It wasn’t a choice in my mind, it was a have to. Once Phase 3 and 4 came, it was a little easier. I was able to eat a few different packaged things, like Lara Bars and some rice based cereal with almond milk. Plus, fruit like pineapples kept my sweet tooth at bay. I began to notice that with my health issues decreasing, so was the number on the scale. This is expected when you eat healthy, yes, but when you’re focusing on just nutrition to feel better and not “losing weight” it is a totally different feeling when you look at the scale! I was so proud and shocked! I was so focused on reducing the inflammation in my body that my weight had taken a backseat. Obviously I hadn’t forgotten that I had to buy jeans a size up from my normal size, or the fact that people had asked if I was pregnant… It’s just that my health and the way I felt every day changed my purpose for eating right.
As I entered into my last couple of phases, my stomach issues were non-existent. However, my headaches had morphed into something different. I ended up going to another neurologist and getting an MRI at the end of my phases. I am currently back on my preventative migraine medicine and that’s ok with me. I do not feel I am over medicated anymore. I feel like I am educated on what my body needs and right now it needs nutrition and a small amount of medicine on the daily. How do I know this? Because now I go a year+ in between migraines like I did before baby…and I feel so much better. I’m also going back to restaurants again, since I have gone through the six month program. If you follow my Snaps/IG Stories, then you know I eat “normal” foods now too (PIZZA!!!). *heart eyes emoji* What I try to do, though, is make better choices based on what my higher reactive foods are. It might have taken an army of doctors and nutritionists, but I lost 30 pounds and learned a ton about myself.
I will continue to share my health journey with you! I may bring back “Fitness Friday“… I’ve had many readers ask for recipes I use frequently, quick on-the-go foods I eat, and workout routines. I will be sharing all those and more soon!
Disclaimer: Everyone copes with their health issues differently. Everyone’s issues are also treated in many ways. If you have migraines, IBS, or deal with anxiety it’s important you call your doctor and discuss.