The Elephant in the Room

5:19 PM

Sometimes I forget that this blog isn't just for scrapbooking. I still get a lot of questions about my health, and I wanted to talk about it today. I've debated whether or not to write this post for some time, because it's something that is difficult for me to discuss. But if what I'm going through can help at least one person, then it's worth writing about.

If you need a catch up, my body is a little angry at me. I have Hashimotos Thyroid disorder, which is an auto-immune issue. Having Hashimotos pre-disposed my body to auto-immune disorders. If you have one auto-immune disorder, the statistics for developing another are high. In 2012, a few months after we got married, I developed chronic hives. They were ALL OVER my body. Sometimes there were literally hundreds of tiny ones, and other days there were a dozen or so baseball sized ones. Not every single day brought hives, but more often than not I was in complete and utter misery. Wearing clothing was painful. I couldn't focus on anything other than the burning and incurable itching I felt.  My eyes sometimes swelled shut, and my lips would swell to three times their size for days at a time. After months of no relief and answers, I found help at a naturopath. He changed my diet and lifestyle, and a month later, the hives were gone. Never to return. More details on that journey can be found here. It's now been nearly two years. What's changed?

When Dr. Buttler put me on the Paleo (i.e. no grains, dairy, or sugar) diet, my life changed for the better. I had energy, lots tons of weight, and no longer had hives. The weight loss was a huge deal for me, because I've struggled with my weight and insecurity my entire life. In 2010-2011, I gained quite a bit of weight due to my thyroid. I was the biggest I had ever been, and I was so self conscious and insecure. I met Michael around this time, and managed to lose about 15 lbs. before our wedding. It was HARD. My thyroid makes my body more resistant to weight loss. So imagine how awesome I felt when I lost 45 pounds with my new lifestyle! It was amazing. Everywhere I went, people told me how wonderful I looked. I got new clothes, and threw away my "fat" ones. I was feeling great!

When I first was introduced to my new lifestyle, I stuck to it religiously. I wanted the hives gone, and was terrified they would come back. After awhile, Michael and I got pretty confident, and started to experiment with incorporating sugar back into our diet. We missed it! Unfortunately. this created a lot of problems. We hadn't had sugar in a long time, and going back to it was like going back to drugs. We couldn't quit it. We had been "deprived" for so long that we couldn't get enough and were consuming it in mass quantities. I still cooked Paleo, but our trips to get junk food were canceling out all the good I was doing elsewhere. The hives were still gone, and our bad habits increased. Naturally we both gained a few pounds.

Food became a huge struggle for both of us. We wanted so desperately to be healthy, but we couldn't quit the bad stuff. We both strongly believe the science behind the Paleo lifestyle, and were angry at ourselves for our constant failure and the power we let food have over us. Despite having delicious home-cooked Paleo meals in the house, we ate crap food at every opportunity. We were eating the worst we ever had, while at the same time eating the best we ever had.

This struggle went on for months. We never quit trying to stay on track, but we never succeeded. Through all this, my hives never came back. We think it's because of the other things I was trying to do to be healthy (supplements, exercise, etc.)

And then, I got a job back at Starbucks. My biggest weakness. Free food and free coffee, and smells of it to tempt me all day! My early morning schedule and our late night tendencies destroyed my sleep schedule. I'd get 5-6 hours of sleep at night, and another 3 in a nap after my shift. Despite my physically demanding job, I gained about 30 pounds in four months. I'd occasionally have a pastry or a frappuccino, but it was not an every day occurrence. Michael and I still had junk food, but not nearly often enough to warrant the amount of weight gain I had.

Why did I gain so much weight? Apparently my body is now extremely sensitive to sugar. Giving it up for so long, combined with my body's craziness, makes it react strongly. Another answer is sleep deprivation. Splitting up my sleep like that did me no favors.

Over the past month or so, Michael and I have been working really hard to go to bed at a reasonable hour. We are also trying really hard to give up every ounce of sugar, which is easier said than done since we're both addicted (there are many studies that show sugar is just as addictive, if not more so, than crack. Going cold turkey is difficult because withdrawal symptoms such as headache, nausea, fever, and hardcore cravings can occur). Despite this, the number on the scale is still rising. We will continue to seek answers and solutions, and we're both working on having healthy views of food. We are both passionate about the Paleo lifestyle, but it's difficult to abide by when you're surrounded by junk that's much more convenient. 

Gaining all the weight I had lost (and then some) destroyed me. Sometimes it's embarrassing to even leave the house, because I'm afraid of all those people who told me I looked so great when I lost all the weight. I'm afraid that they're seeing it back on and judging me for it or feeling sorry for me. I'm afraid everyone is looking at me and it's all they are noticing. I've had to get new clothes in bigger sizes.  I dread social occasions because it means a battle to get dressed and often times some tears. I've seen the scale reach far past numbers I swear I'd never see again.

But, I AM NOT A FAILURE. This journey has taught Michael and I so much about our health. It's not fun to struggle with this, but it is turning me into a stronger person. It's helped me understand that other people value me for so much more than my looks. It has reminded me what a gift it is to be created in God's image, and to know how truly beautiful that is. I am so much more than a number on the scale. I've made huge strides in my health, even if I have had setbacks. Heck, it takes serious time and dedication to cook all the healthy meals that I do, and on a budget to boot!  I am proud of the person I am on the inside AND the outside. I am Allie, I am beautiful, and I will keep fighting every single day until I am as healthy as I can be.

This is a picture of me taken yesterday. I'm five pounds below my heaviest weight ever (in 2011), but damn it, I'm still beautiful.

PS: I say "we" and "us" because Michael has been a part of this journey 100% of the time. He is my teammate and constant support, but also has his own personal health goals that coincide with mine. 

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  1. Thank you for your honesty. I absolutely believe that about sugar, because I KNOW it affects me in lots of ways, but still can't seem to quit it!!! Prayers and hugs for you as you continue to strive for health! (:

  2. All I see in this photo is the absolutely gorgeous person you are! You are beautiful inside and out, Alison!

  3. Allie, you are gorgeous! I find when I'm having my moments of self doubt, that if I turn the tables on myself and ask how I would react in a social situation to someone overweight, or broken out, or badly dressed and I always come up with the same answer, I would probably not even notice, or it wouldn't be a big deal. Be kinder to yourself, you are beautiful and talented and are so much more than your perceived flaws.

  4. You are doing awesome! Keep up the fight, I feel your pain re gaining weight, but with a lot of hard work we'll choose a healthier lifestyle and will feel and look better for it. Great blog post, very real.

  5. Thank you so much for this post, thanks for sharing your experience.
    I could have written lots of its lines myself (ecxcept for the hives and the job at Starbucks).
    You are really lucky to have such a wonderful husband with you.

    And yes, you are beautiful.

  6. Allie, you are very beautiful! Always remember this! I have MS and the drugs I take have caused me to put on most of the 80 lbs I lost. Have to take the meds so there isn't much I can do. Enjoy life, love yourself and your husband and know that God created you and loves you!

  7. Keep your positive attitude Allie, and just take it day by day! And it's great that you are both supporting one another. I will admit I have no will power when it comes to my favorite foods! HA!!

  8. Allie, You are an amazing woman. I look forward to seeing your blog posts. I don't think you realize just how many of us struggle with this same issue. I too went on a Comprehensive Elimination Diet in 2010 which relieved my Fibromyalgia pain. It took me 2 1/2 years to add foods back in, because I didn't know what the source of the pain was. Now I have found all kind of foods I'm allergic to. Sugar is the worst to get rid of. Some brands add it to every thing. S&W for one. they add sugar to green beans. Keep your chin up and I will do the same. You are AMAZING!!!



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