I had been telling all my doctors for the past 2 years that I was recovering from bulimia. Most of them would put a gentle arm on my shoulder and say, “Thanks for telling me. You should try and lose weight.” That was it. The talk was over.
Yet that kind of advice was the exact reason I couldn’t recover from my ED. I couldn’t find a way to stop belittling myself for not losing weight. Whitney, you should look different by now. Even though I was excited about my daily progress of uncovering negative thought patterns and making better choices, I still experienced moments of hopelessness because my body was in pain.
I felt healthier when the purging stopped and the binging slowed down but I still felt heavy and exhausted. I’d wake up feeling like I was 100 years-old, crawling out of bed to sharp pain the moment my feet hit the floor. I had decided that my weight must be the root of all my discomfort. In the back of my mind I was still thinking, I’m too fat.
Six months ago I resigned from my events career. My body was in the most pain I had ever felt.
My legs ached and my shoulder blades felt like I was leaning against swords. It had always hurt to be tickled but now being tickled was unbearable. My skin felt beyond sensitive when my husband playfully jabbed fingers at my sides. I have always maintained a healthy immune system. Thank you Grandma & Grandpa Jones. I hadn’t been sick in 6 years but in 2014 I was on antibiotics 6 times. I had colds, flus, 24-hour stomach bugs, bronchitis, pneumonia and a chronic cough. I was dog-tired. Something was wrong.
I searched for an out-patient Eating Disorder Recovery Specialist on and off for years. I could only find out-of-state help at Eating Disorder Pro. I spoke to a handful of health insurance representatives and they had no idea where to place me. I decided that these types of out-patient doctors didn’t exist. I didn’t have the money or the time to seek in-patient treatment at an Eating Recovery Center.
Upon my sister-in-law’s recommendation, I pursued functional medicine. She told me about Tracy Shulsinger, NP (Journey 2 Life) in Boulder, CO. Their office focused on working together to create “optimal functioning body and its organs” through nutrition and dietary supplements. This meant heavy-duty lab work and plenty of time to talk about the results. I found out they didn’t take insurance. I was suspicious.
It sounded like I was going to spend hundreds of dollars for appointments and then even more money for supplements.
The friendly receptionist told me I should get my lab work done prior to my initial appointment so I wouldn’t waste any time or money. Excuse me? Did I hear that correctly? It was amazing as a patient to feel financially considered. Tracy spent 1 hour and 16 minutes talking with me on my initial appointment. This was highly unusual compared to my 15 minute intervals at my Family Practioner’s office. We talked about how my long term bulimia could have affected my health through topics like metabolic syndrome, fibromyalgia, untreated inflammation leading to autoimmune diseases, reflux disorder and leaky gut syndrome. My mind was blown as my paradigm shifted. All of these health problems could be related to my diet? I wrote furiously, trying to jot down every word.
When we covered my bloodwork, I cried upon hearing the results. I finally knew what was wrong with me. My body had gout (arthritis), my vitamin D was only at 18 (should be closer to 80-100), I was close to hypothyroidism (might need medicine for life) and had borderline hypertension (severe high blood pressure). My bloodwork had been tested dozens of times at my strip mall doctor’s office but they barely talked to me about the results. Everything had always been fine because they never tested for everything.
I drove home from Journey 2 Life and prepared for my next steps. I ordered Metagenics supplements and medical foods and I went grocery shopping with my sister-in-law. She showed me the ropes on tart cherry juice and how to make greens extra tasty. The next week I started my first 9-Day cleanse. I was fearful of yet another “cleanse” but I kept reminding myself that this was about my health, not my weight.
It felt strange to eat Brussels sprouts and wild-caught salmon for breakfast but I was enjoying the food all the same. On the third day, I was walking around my kitchen floors barefoot for the first time in years. My feet had been in excruciating pain for close to 4 years and I had assumed it was because my orthotics hadn’t fit correctly. I went to my weekly ecstatic dance, Rhythm Sanctuary, and noticed that I could sit on the hard wood floor cross-legged and kneel on the ground without my shins feeling like they were being cut off of my body. My ankles no longer felt like they were going to break underneath the weight of my body. It was like a miracle. I started to feel normal again.
I had no idea how much my weight had been making me sick.
I just went back to Tracy for my first, three month check-in. We spent another hour talking but this time it was about my progress! It was amazing to discuss the exciting changes in my new bloodwork results. I knew the more effort I put into making healthy choices the more my body would keep changing on its own. I don’t have to punish it in order to get the job done. I’m done with that kind of living.
In that second appointment I was honest with Tracy about how I had recently began to sink back into my old habits. Towards the end of the first 3-months, I had stopped choosing to eat anti-inflammatory foods, I had been forgetful with my daily supplements and I had started drinking alcohol again. This is what I typically did, in the past, when I stopped dieting; I went back to my familiar habits. I told her that I had to keep repeating my mantra, “this time it’s different. It’s not about my weight, it’s about my health.” It was time to go back to my original promise. I had committed to making my body healthy.
I have another appointment scheduled for mid-summer. As cliché as it sounds, I’m learning that this type of diet is a lifestyle and it doesn’t happen overnight. The more I keep focused on my health, the more I stay committed to healing. If I skip a day of medical foods or eat sushi or order a glass of wine every now and then, so what? For my next meal, I know I need to go right back into the anti-inflammatory routine because it’s most important for my wellbeing. This is the kind of treatment plan I’ve been waiting for all of my life! Functional medicine is part of my recovery. I’ve spent years learning how to heal my thoughts and how to heal my habits. Now it’s time to heal my body.