Life Beyond Sugar
For the past two and a half years, I've been fighting a daily struggle with severe stomach pain. It has been beyond exhausting both physically and emotionally. I've spent countless hours after meals lying in bed doubled over in the fetal position just waiting for the pain to go away, and I can't tell you how many times I've broken down in tears at the grocery store because I didn't know what to eat. I went to various doctors, all of whom told me that they found nothing wrong and that I "should be fine in a couple days." Well, days turned into weeks which have turned into years, and now I've been fighting these symptoms for over two years. It seems like it might not be that big of a deal or it was just a little stomach pain, but it has significantly affected my life. When I was serving my mission in Portugal, I could hardly eat a banana or drink a glass of water without throwing up (TMI sorry). Ryan and I couldn't ever make it to the theater for a movie, because I was in so much pain after dinner that it was a struggle to even walk back to the car. When we had to stay inside on our honeymoon (in the most beautiful place in the world), because I was in too much pain and had to lay in bed with my knees wrapped up to my chest, it started becoming a really big deal.
I tried just about everything I could think of to get rid of the pain. I tried living gluten-free. I gave up diet coke and chocolate chip cookies (which anyone who knows me knows that was my favorite meal). While the throwing up stopped, the pain wouldn't go away. I consulted my nutritionist angel of a mother-in-law and cried to my ever-so-patient dietitian sister on the phone daily. I scrolled through various food bloggers' instagram accounts and considered all sorts of diets--whole30, paleo, vegan, #rawtil4. It all seemed far too overwhelming and everyone had perfect results with the one diet they had tried. Well, the person who swore by paleo couldn't imagine being vegan, and the person living a plant based life didn't agree with whole30 at all. I was so confused. I read and read and read about thyroid problems and gut problems and even brain issues, because honestly, it was getting to the point where I was convinced my whole body was shutting down and I wasn't ever going to get any better. I can't tell you how many times I broke down in the middle of the grocery store, because I didn't know what to buy or how often I opened the fridge and decided to go back to bed because it was easier just not to eat at all and I didn't have enough energy to do anything else anyway.
I did everything I (and my sister) knew how to do, and still....no luck. Finally, I decided it was time to find a Naturopathic Doctor who would actually believe that something was wrong and help me heal naturally. After running a food sensitivity test, the results came back saying one of my highest food sensitivities was cane sugar. The solution: cut it out of my diet completely for at least 6 months. 6 months?! Do you know what has sugar in it? I've found out and it's just about EVERYTHING. Seriously, go to your pantry or refrigerator and read the ingredients list of any packaged item--I can almost guarantee you it has sugar listed on there. Peanut Butter. Garlic Salt. Chicken. Bread. Salsa. Almond milk. Granola. Yogurt. Cereal. Granola bars. Salad dressing. Literally, everything. It's terrifying. None of those things need sugar added to them, and yet...it's totally and completely accepted.
Anyway, I have now made it one month without any type of sugar or sweetener (ie. honey, maple syrup, etc). I also haven't had grain or dairy or a lot of other random foods (bananas, peanuts, iceberg lettuce, and the list goes on) that apparently my body really doesn't like either. Now, I'm not saying that I'm 100% better. I'm not even sure I'm 70% better, but I do know that I am better. I'm better, because I can make it through one meal without my stomach hurting. I'm better because I have the energy to leave the house and do things I actually enjoy. I'm better because I know what I'm putting in my body and how it is affecting me. I'm better because I finally believe that there is an end in sight and it leaves me healthy and functioning, not dead (dramatic, I know, but when you're in pain, your mind can convince you of just about anything).
I've been thinking about documenting this since the day I started, and I've finally worked up the courage to do it. I'm doing it mostly to hold me accountable and encourage me to create new healthy and delicious foods, but also because I want to help you join in. Now, I'm not saying you have to be as extreme as I am or that you can't eat cupcakes or ice cream from time to time (even if I can't), but I am saying that I want us to help each other eat healthier and feed ourselves real whole foods. I want us to be aware of what we are eating and stop ruining our bodies from the inside out. And I want you to eat these cookies that I made, because oh my, they are my proudest work yet.
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup coconut oil
4 tbsp almond butter (make sure the only ingredient listed is almonds)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup of chopped up bits from 100% dark chocolate
Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
*Disclaimer: If they don't taste sweet enough to you, feel free to add a tablespoon or two of honey to sweeten them up a bit!