“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change” ~ Jim Rohn
My choice was made two years ago, on March 8th, 2014. It was the day I traded in my candy for fruit, sodas for water, and my second helpings for smaller, more controlled meal portions. It was also the first day I laced up my tennis shoes, walked out the front door, and I ran. Okay, I only ran about 4 houses down before I had to stop because I thought I might pass out, but I was trying, and it felt good to be doing something. It felt good to take control. I remember very vividly how difficult and painful it was on my body when I first started running, but I am so glad I didn’t give up.
So how did I reach this day? I am so glad you asked. Basically, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I had spent too many days, months, and even years feeling terrible, and I was ready to take back control of my life. On my About Me page, I talk a little about my journey, and I mention that I had previously never exercised, I made poor nutrition choices, and that I felt awful most of the time.
Let me elaborate. Medically, I had been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in my early 20’s. IBS is an intestinal condition that brought me unwanted gifts of abdominal cramps and pains, nausea, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and other abdominal discomforts. I realize this is not the most appealing topic, but hey, this is life people, and unfortunately, those symptoms were defining mine. Some days were good, some days were bad, and some days were really bad. I couldn’t believe how miserable this condition could make me feel at times. There were days I was extremely late to work, and there were days I didn’t make it to work at all. There were days I missed out on family functions, and there were plans my family canceled because I was too sick to leave the house, yet they didn’t want to go without me. Traveling was the worst. No wait, traffic was the worst. My anxiety would kick in and my mind would race about what would happen if my IBS hit me while I was stuck in the car. Traveling became something I just dreaded. I also worried that I would get in trouble at work or even fired for being late or missing days. This constant anxiety fed into even more stomach problems. I felt completely stuck in this cycle, feeling hopeless and defeated. Sometimes I would just lay in the bed and cry; I began feeling very sorry for myself and even depressed at times. Some days were so bad that I cried in my husband’s arms and asked him to just take me to the hospital and make them fix me somehow. Many of my family and friends knew I suffered with the condition, but no one knew the extent at all, only my husband. He did everything he could to support me and help me feel better, he held on to me throughout the entire journey, and was strong and positive when I just didn’t have it in me.
They say there is no cure for IBS, but there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms so I did seek out help from my primary care physician. She suggested a fiber supplement, which I took for several weeks, but I really saw no difference. She also gave me a prescription to take when I had an episode, but I will be honest, I am not a fan of medication unless I really need it, so I never once took it. I didn’t want something to mask my symptoms anyway, I wanted to fix the problem; I just had no clue how to do it. I saw a therapist and tried to manage my anxiety, but it didn’t help long term. Some days I would handle things better than others, but it wasn’t just my anxiety that caused my condition anyway. The symptoms arrived any day, any time, and under any circumstances; the anxiety was just an added instigator. My physician eventually suggested that I see a specialist and have a colonoscopy. That definitely terrified me. But I needed more answers, and more options, so I made an appointment with a gastroenterologist. It was the beginning of my life changing forever.
Many times, we will never realize how meaningful, powerful, and even life-changing something we say or do can be to someone else. I kept the appointment with the gastroenterologist, and we mostly talked. He said he would run tests if I wanted him to, including a colonoscopy, but he also said he didn’t think I needed to go through them. He told me I was too young and otherwise healthy to live like this; he told me there was hope. He went on to give me more information about Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but to also really talk about my diet, and about how it lacked the basic things it needed to function at its best. Nutrients, fiber, water!! He asked me about my family, and asked if I wanted to live a long, healthy life with them. He brought up the future – traveling, quality of life, and being able to see my kids get married and have children of their own. It was all hitting home, hard. I had needed someone to tell me these things, they were real facts and truths that were making me question my every day choices. I had some major faults here and I knew it. I had been doing my body a horrible disservice all of these years, and it was just now sinking in with every word he spoke. He challenged me to change my diet to include fresh fruits, leafy green vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and water. He suggested orange juice with pulp if I really wanted some juice (I was drinking a lot of sugary juices at the time), but he mostly encouraged me to drink water. He was completely right; my body was so dehydrated, and had been begging me to fuel it correctly all of these years. He also challenged me to exercise, specifically, to do something for 30 minutes every day that makes me sweat. My body needed to be moving, my heart needed to be pumping, and I needed to make some big changes. He asked me to try these things and come back in a couple of months if my symptoms hadn’t improved, and then we would proceed with further tests. I left his office feeling empowered, inspired, and for the first time in years, hopeful. As I drove home after that appointment, the information soaked into me the way the warm sun soaks into your skin, and I realized I had a choice in all of this. I was given this earthly body that is so complex, yet so perfect, and I had been ignoring what it needed to function properly. I was going to change. That very day, things for me were going to change.
When I got home, I excitedly told my husband how my appointment went, and about all of the changes I was going to make in my life. I had already decided on what kind of exercise I was going to do; I had decided to start running. It seemed like an “easy” choice; I could do it any time I was ready by simply walking out my front door, and…it was free! Before the sun started setting that day, I put on a pair of old tennis shoes, stepped outside, and I ran. It wasn’t easy by any means, and there was a lot more walking going on than there was running. But I didn’t stop until my 30 minutes was completed. Sweaty, out of breath, and actually kind of miserable, I came back inside, sat down, and drank some water. And I smiled. I vividly remember smiling, even through the pain, sweat, and exhaustion. Life was going to look different; I was taking control from that day forward.
It took a couple of months of eating right, drinking lots of water, and exercising almost every day, but my IBS symptoms started decreasing. After about 4 months, they were nearly completely gone. As I sit here writing this now, I don’t recall the last time I had an issue due to the condition, and I consider myself completely cured. I took my life back, and it feels amazing. Just saying that makes my eyes well up with tears. When I think about how much my quality of life has improved, and how it has impacted not just me, but my entire family, I am overwhelmed with joy, gratitude, and determination to keep going. The journey is not just for me, but also for my husband and my kids, for my future grandchildren and great grandchildren, and for anyone I can inspire along the way. At this point, I have stepped out of my front door to go on hundreds of runs, and I have ran over a thousand miles. I have completed several 5K’s, and even my first 10K just last month. And not a single run goes by without remembering why I started. With every stride, I am stronger, and with every stride, I remember. I am grateful for every day and for every run, with all my sole…..
Two years into my wellness journey and I have learned the great extent of the benefits diet and exercise have on your body. Curing me of my IBS is only one of the amazing things that happened to me along the way. I am excited to share more stories about weight loss, muscle tone, eating healthy, stress relief, and especially running in my future blogs! There is so much more to come. Please join me on the journey by subscribing here! What could you do to improve your quality of life? Let’s find out together!
This blog is dedicated to Dr. Phillip Smith, who inspired me to make once choice that forever changed my life.