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I cut out my gallbladder, then wanted to die.

Posted by on Jun 17, 2014 in Blog | 6 comments

I cut out my gallbladder, then wanted to die.

 

Hola ladies.

What follows today is a hell of a monster of a behemoth of a post. It’s nine single-spaced pages in Microsoft word. This bulk amounts to around 5000 words. This is not a number to sneeze at. In fact, it is regarded as a number that screams “don’t go there! You’ll lose all your readers!” to any blogger who knows just about anything about just about anything.

Nonetheless it is one of the best blog posts I have ever read (because I certainly did not write it). I thought I’d roll my eyes a paragraph in, click the little red X in the corner, and be on my happily scheduled productive way. Instead I was sucked in by line 2 and read every single word, a torrent of emotion and insight and stunningly beautiful prose.

I could go on, but I’ll let you see for yourself.

This is the story of Elissa Washuta and her body. It is full of so much love and hate and love and hate and fear and hope. Few stories can show us better (and have shown me better) the visceral truth of what it means to be a human animal in a concrete word.

 

——-

Stab Wounds: Killing My Gallbladder, Wounding My Brain

An Essay by Elissa Washuta

 

I was twenty when the nausea came to stay. The feeling coiled around my stomach one morning when I woke up beside my boyfriend, picked my way across our fallen textbooks, and dry-heaved in his moldy bathroom.  Every week, as directed, I had pressed a fresh birth control patch onto a blank expanse of skin. We wanted so badly to draw on the patch, but the prescribing instructions had forbidden it, so we sharpied beside it, around it, and all over each other’s torsos. No fetuses, he wrote on me,  and drew a tadpole with a line through it. Ever since I was old enough to cover my scrapbooks in stickers of Mr. Yuk and unicorns, I was compelled to coat my life in adhesive badges.

 

As I sat on the grimy toilet and a phantom python tried to force all intruders out of my empty gut, I worried, transdermal ethinyl estradiol and norelgestromin notwithstanding, that the linty-edged sticker on my ass was no more magical than the neon Lisa Frank teddy bears that covered my fifth grade diary.

 

Hours before the roommates woke to shuffle off to class, my boyfriend drove me to the pharmacy. I bought three pregnancy tests for good measure. I peed out a negative. The attacks of nausea persisted, soon leading to pains that would break open my right side with an invisible shiv, then swiftly retreat. Over the following weeks, I lost my ability to stomach frozen pizza and box-mix brownies, and my diet moved toward hard liquor and liquid sugar. I was not pregnant, but I felt something inside me alive and howling.

 

+++

 

This was 2005, and as a college sophomore and a hypochondriac since puberty, I learned to take my visits to Dr. Google to the next level. Swinging between starving and nauseated, I haunted WebMd and PubMed until my symptoms and family history locked into perfect alignment. Nothing sounded more elegant than porcelain gallbladder. I said cholecystitis over and over, as though a hidden door would slide open and show me a new world of hurt that was a cold, clinical alternate dimension. My own world had flipped from bright to hostile halfway through sophomore year, when my campus turned from brochure-bright to haunted. My bones felt rocked by the constant thuds of big university life: basketball-inspired couch-burning, rabid chants of obscenities upon every Maryland win or loss to Duke, and rows of Mid-Atlantic brick behind unwelcoming white columns. Rage, joy, and thirst seemed to have been written into the college’s charter. There was a time when I saw none of that—when my school was a place for learning.

 

+++

 

My mother, a nurse at the county hospital back home, made the arrangements I requested while I kept my focus, as usual, on my grade point average. I traveled home to New Jersey to visit a surgeon. I told him my guts were tangled. By his order, a radiologist shot me up. When I asked about what I was going to feel, she told me, you may experience the same discomfort that brought you to your physician.

 

Cholecystokinin, meant to send my gallbladder into a panic, spread everywhere, from the crook of my elbow to my eyeballs. A radioactive tracer chemical collected in my liver to light up my hepatobiliary system under the gaze of the gamma camera. Will this stuff make me a superhero? I wanted to know. I needed protective powers of all kinds—self-defense and then some. She wouldn’t answer. Soon enough, I only wanted to save my own gut, empty my veins onto the gray floor. As my gallbladder seized, wrapped by the atomic-radiated python, clenching with ten times its normal strength, I implored the snake, Kill me, kill me here.

 

+++

 

I knew the flesh was dead inside me before I had to be told. The surgeon summoned me back to his den. He said that I had no stones, but the organ had ceased to function. He gave it to me in brief, wasting no words: the gallbladder’s job was to release bile into the duodenum as food passed by, emulsifying lipids, but it had gone kaput. He could take it out, the liver’s bile ducts would enlarge, the liver would take over the gallbladder’s job, and everything would be beautiful. There was almost no chance that open surgery would be needed, as the whole shebang would be laparoscopic. There was a ten percent chance it wouldn’t work out. Meaning, what?—my mom wanted to know. I don’t remember what he said—something abstract, I think, about the bile ducts being unable to enlarge to compensate for the loss. I only know that his words weren’t gruesome enough to stop me from telling him that I needed him to cut it out of me.

 

The knife.

The knife.

 

+++

 

 

While I waited to be opened at the end of 2005, some of my college friends mused that nobody really needs a gallbladder anyway.  Others asked if I could get a transplant.

 

Things I don’t need: my kitchen; my eyeglasses; my hands; my lips. I puked thin green chemical spills. I convinced myself that I could live like the saints I venerated throughout my Catholic upbringing: the self-flagellators, the hairshirt enthusiasts, the starvation devotees. I ate nothing but Cheerios and soy milk, read every food label, consumed no fat for weeks. Kill me, kill me here.

 

As finals week approached, students began leaving their customary offerings to Testudo the terrapin, the bronze idol of our mascot that lives on a pedestal outside the library. The gifts have become more elaborate in recent years, but back then, standard offerings were coins, flowers,  votive candles, pints of booze, to-go coffee. I left nothing. I wouldn’t even rub his nose for luck when I passed, the standard turtle greeting. I didn’t want luck, a purposeless force shaping my life without my control. I wanted to put my hands into my own works, broken by the unknown forces of illness and the known force of another person’s venom, and finally set myself right.

 

+++

 

The person close to me who had no gallbladder told me not to go through with the surgery. “If I had to do it all over again, I don’t know if I would,” he said. I don’t even remember what else he said, because I couldn’t listen: all I wanted was to be sliced open so that the thing rotting deep inside me could be snipped out. I wanted my innards to be scrubbed clean with antimicrobials. I wanted the team to give me a brand new body. I wanted to tear open the cellophane and start over on my life. I must have told him that I was going to go through with it, because I did.

 

Right after Christmas, at age twenty-one, I put on a gown, asked for an IV in the back of my fist instead of my perpetually bruised fencing arm, and faced the knife. Nobody told me, in dramatic cinematic fashion, that I could back out anytime. I was Hibiclens-clean, properly foodless, and eager. The dream team was ready for the minor abdominal surgery that would be easier to my surgeon than an application of eyeliner was for me. Right before I went out, as I entered the bright operating theater, I thought, They will take off these clothes they gave me, and then they will open me, and I won’t even know if I die naked.

 

+++

 

The women watching over me in the post-op recovery room wanted numbers. Seven, I yelled. Seven, again. I’m sorry, I cried. Seven. They said they’d hit the morphine ceiling. I had no eyeglasses. They silenced me with Demerol. Finally, my frontal lobe had been overtaken.

 

In the bed they said was mine, I was more nauseous than I knew I could be. My gut looked like an alien pregnancy, big but not happy, marked by four tiny cuts. The nurse called them stab wounds: a hole for the camera, a hole for inflation, a hole for snipping, a hole for yanking out the thing. She said that when they were trying to get the gallbladder out of that tiny hole, my belly would have been stretched so far away from my body it was like a cartoon.

 

The nurse said I could only leave after peeing, which took half the day. My mom sat with me in the bathroom while I tried to get empty. I went two drops and Mom made the announcement.

 

I was told not to fence for a month. While the morphine nausea persisted, Mom read me short stories and I hid from the light; after the drug wore off and I beat at the throbbing with vicodin, I busted the stitches on one of my stab wounds as I slipped off the couch after a fallen saltine while watching a 24-hour marathon of 24.

 

I thought about the flaws in my fencing game, picturing my broken body vertical, functional, flexible. I thought about my sweet boyfriend back in College Park, waiting for me to come back and play house. I spent a lot of time with my laptop sitting hot on my stab wounds as I Googled words I’d been afraid to look at for a year: post traumatic stress rape trauma date rape acquaintance rape college rape statistics denial. My stab wounds began closing over, starting with the smallest one, while the two longer lines refused to swallow their stitches. I couldn’t eat without feeling my insides sloughing off. Was it normal to hand in nausea and receive the runs in return? The photocopies from the hospital said nothing about it—I had been instructed not to make any important business or personal decisions for 24 hours following surgery, not to engage in sports until my physician gave permission. In bold capital letters, I had been told to make arrangements for someone to stay with me for the first night. I had not been told about the achy sojourns between toilet and couch, my incisions screaming. Creeping my way up the stairs, I worried that wide gashes would be torn across my punctured abdominals. At my destination, I’d remember that my wounds were buried deep: my liver sobbed over its loss.

 

My surgeon was inaccessible during an extended European vacation, so I saw the primary care doctor who had told me, before I left for college, to be careful with my virginity—what would my future children think about a mom who had slept with a bunch of guys? Now, she told me my only recourse was Imodium AD.  Until when? I wanted to know. This wasn’t a cure, she told me. This was a treatment: two with food, as long as symptoms persist. How long would symptoms persist? Well—how long did I expect to be gallbladderless?

 

What’s worse: nausea or the shits? Going to work or being bedridden? Having an organ never work again or never getting it back? A heart full of fear of the imagined first time having sex or a head wracked by memory of the known experience?

 

Ow.

Here comes the Ow.

 

After three weeks on the couch, I went back to school. No surgeon was around to tell me not to fence, so I took up my epee a month after surgery; I traveled to a regional tournament, got wasted on Smirnoff Ice in the hotel room, woke up still drunk, stuffed my bloated body into my stiff white knickers and jacket, and fenced all day. By evening, I had my first fencing medal, and my topmost stab wound was losing the ends of its stitches as my overworked abdominals groaned. I accepted my shiny disc, dosed myself with vicodin, and curled up among the gear against the wall. During the dark bus ride back to Maryland, my teammates played “Never have I ever,” increasingly scandalous secrets about sexual dalliances coming out at every turn, while I sanded down my brain with pills and told them nothing.

 

medal

Persevere.

 

+++

 

I didn’t notice that my brain was spoiling. It just started getting mean.

 

I was standing on the subway platform one day, commuting home from work, when I realized that I had been raped that year before, by that boy who had first penetrated me. My heart was a train and it plowed through my head.

 

I called the campus peer counseling and crisis line and a grown man answered. I told him I thought I had been raped approximately one year ago, by a boy I was just beginning to date, and he said that in his professional experience, women who are raped or sexually assaulted are usually beaten within an inch of their lives, usually have their clothes torn off, usually they’re in pretty bad and bloody shape. I hung up and tried to eat my own mouth so it wouldn’t tell anyone else what I’d divulged.

 

+++

 

I began showering at least twice a day. I showered whenever my insides shed while I cried on porcelain, begging kill me, kill me now, a secret held more deeply than any other, because no college student can ever tell the authorities that she wants to die, even if it’s not a true wish to die, but a wish to be physically reborn with new guts, new skin, new hymen stretched like a tarp, like a whip.

+++

 

I don’t know what lobe of my brain said it, but someone inside my head told my boyfriend, “I need to know what it’s like to be with other people,” and he said he didn’t want to lose me. At the moment of crisis, my boyfriend coming in through the window and my heart flaccid, I knew that, despite the sad scene I had set up so I might rewrite my memory, another boy’s small hand was not the body part I was missing.

 

 

+++

 

I developed a fixation upon a slightly younger boy who had no intention of dating me, preferred World of Warcraft over sex, and hadn’t dropped his baby fat. I left the boyfriend with whom I had psychic conversations and built love forts. I still didn’t eat. My back was the back of my bony fist and I wanted to curl up and bloody the face of the world.

 

+++

 

I sat down with my surgeon and told him about the runs. He told me he wished I would’ve come in sooner. This thing had a name, postcholecystectomy syndrome, and if he could name it, he could smite it. He prescribed packets of Questran, a bile acid sequestrant once used to treat hypercholesterolemia, for my bile acid malabsoroption. How long will I have to take this? I asked. It’s cheap, he said. Mixed in some water, you can barely taste it.

 

+++

 

Postcholecystectomy syndrome is the name for a bundle of symptoms after surgery, either a continuation of the pre-operative symptoms or the development of new ones. The problems are caused by changes in bile flow into the GI tract.

 

PCS is found in 5-30% of patients, with 10-15% being the most reasonable range. [. . .]

 

If the procedure is performed for stones, 10-25% of patients develop PCS. If no stones are present, 29% of patients develop PCS. [. . .]

 

Freud found age and sex differences.Patients aged 20-29 years had an incidence of 43%; those aged 30-39 years, 27%; 40-49 years, 21%; 50-59 years, 26%; and, 60-69 years, 31%. Patients older than 70 years did not develop PCS. Females had a 28% incidence of PCS, and males had a 15% incidence. [. . .]

 

Note that half of patients with a preoperative psychiatric disorder have an organic cause of PCS, whereas only 23% of patients without a psychiatric disorder have an organic cause. [SOURCE]

 

+++

 

I became certain that I was addicted to love, or romance, or attention, or crushes, or being around magnetic people, or not going to work. My boss at my part-time federal government job said, “You had a major organ taken out. That’s a big adjustment for your brain.” I used all my sick days. I quit the job. I started working all night at the 24-hour service desk in the apartment lobby and then went home and drank alone.

 

One day, walking in my high heels to the liquor store in the suspended sweat of a Maryland summer, I realized that I might be one of those girls in the glossy magazines—not the ones with concave bellies and hips like dolphin backs, but the ones whose brains are horror stories, cautionary tales about the brinkwomanship of pressing against the edge of institutionalization.

 

I cut off all my hair. Then I did it again and again and again, daring someone to want me without it.

 

+++

Until my boss mentioned the connection between my gallbladder and brain, I hadn’t thought they were related. Bipolar disorder may be associated with immune system dysfunction and pro-inflammatory cytokines, though results in individual studies are conflicted, according to a recent meta-analysis. Cholecystectomy has been found to result in cytokine release. I’m not a scientist; I’m a writer. I can’t prove that, when my surgeon cut into my gut, a phantom twin scalpel scored my brain. But the connection between the gut and the brain is coming into clear focus, and I know that when the surgeon took my gallbladder, he performed a lobotomy of the belly.

 

+++

 

At the beginning of senior year, in 2006, I saw a psychiatrist at the university health center. According to my questionnaire responses, he found me depressed and prescribed Lexapro. Over the next few months, I would get all the drugs whose names had titillated me as a straight-edge kid in New Jersey: Wellbutrin, Ritalin, Ativan, lithium, and others I’d never heard of. I would break out in a rash signaling a potentially fatal reaction. I would get so depressed my doctor would write notes requesting assignment extensions. I would get so manic I would leap on my bed and think my ribs were god’s xylophone. Almost every day, I drank beer or Grey Goose screwdrivers. When the scale reported the number that was, by BMI, underweight for my height, I jumped up and down.

 

I gained forty pounds after moving to Seattle and going on a new antipsychotic drug. I would’ve tried to yank all my flesh off my body if the mania hadn’t been sanded down by the Seroquel and the depression by the intense endorphins of all the avocado-hummus-provolone sandwiches I was eating. Seroquel is thought to cause insulin resistance. My new doctor didn’t tell me that; she told me it would be a good drug, and it has been. Years later, she added Topamax, and twenty pounds dropped off. I figured out, through paleo—thank you, Level 4 CrossFit Seattle and Dave Werner—that I had celiac disease, and once I cut out gluten, the diarrhea stopped. Just like that.

DSCF1857

Poison/Salve.

The crazy never stopped. I found the right medication cocktail and got better at letting my hair grow out, but I’ll always be bipolar. I’ve seen practitioners who suggest I consider going off my meds. I think about the old days when I’d sit on a pile of high heels in my closet, wondering if I could get away with never coming out again, hoping if I starved for long enough my exhausted hepatobiliary system might reset and sprout new buds, wishing I could tweeze the pain from my skull. None of that happened. I spent seven medicated years writing a book about my body and my brain, and the regular wringing-out mechanism wore out every nerve until the shock of my brain’s tangle had worn off. I wrote the word rape, once as off-limits as a secret password, until it didn’t look like a word anymore, and rebuilt it as something I could begin to understand.

 

The only thing to do is find the wound and rub in the salve.

 

+++

 

There’s a lot of talk in the paleo community about the over-prescription of psych drugs, but my meds keep me functional. Maybe I wasn’t born broken, but I’ve been broken into, and someone walked away with my treasures. There is too much at stake to try to disavow the chemicals that have patched my world back together. I hear, too often, that we should all be able to mend ourselves with the right food, the right movement, and sunshine. It’s easy to tell people they don’t need drugs when you don’t know what it’s like to need drugs, to wander around all night hoping you’ll find the end of the earth, to pummel the floor with another panic attack, to self-medicate with another handle of vodka because the right medication still hasn’t appeared. Maybe I could find the right combination of foods and movements that could replace the meds, but I could lose my mind while searching. This much is irreversible: I needed to get some dense nodule of hurt out of me, and so I agreed to that surgeon’s swift medicine and made wreckage of myself. I am no longer the intact human who arrived on this earth in 1984. I will do what I need to keep my brain from taking me down.

 

+++

 

My moods are fairly stable now, the bipolar peaks and valleys having been evened out by medication and good practices. I still have a fat gut on my skinny, flamingo-legged frame. I still have keratosis pilaris—chicken skin—on my upper arms and thighs, signaling possible nutrient absorption problems. A couple of years into paleo, I developed dramatic cystic acne that comes and goes, seemingly related to a mysterious family of food intolerances (possibly, it seems, as broad as all salicylates). I have other symptoms. I still have a gut feeling that I am a destruction site, and now, it’s informed by too much knowledge: bad choices, genetic mutations. Regularly, I take 5-MTHF, fermented cod liver oil, offal, chicken foot broth, gelatin, butyrate, l-glutamine, ox bile, and so many other talismans to charm the snakes inside me. The most terrifying part is that nobody really seems to know how to make my snakes sleep—I try and I err and I eliminate foods until almost nothing remains. Humans are resilient, but we are not unbreakable, and the mending process is consuming me.

 

+++

 

Almost ten years have passed since I was raped in my campus apartment by a boy who had my consent for kissing, for more than kissing, but not for the breaking of an emotional seal I feared more than anything: first-time sex. I suppose I could say I have “healed” in that I no longer act out in direct response to my tangled emotions. But it’s hard to say I’ll ever really get over being raped when I know I had my gut mutilated because I wanted to scalpel out my own crawling brain, my own dark heart. I thought I loved my illness, once it arrived. But in truth, I loved that it gave me the power to point to a part of myself and order its execution.

 

 

 +++

 

Last week, my friends and I went to the mystical bookstore. I don’t usually go for the new age stuff, being an actual Native person, but I like a good field trip. I went right for the table covered in stones: pink stones, green stones, crystals, stones with high polish. While Claire examined the pendulums, Catherine read from a book about the stones that could give me power, the stones that could heal me. I found a strand for my left wrist, a strand for my right, and a ring. This stone provides energy and protects from bad vibrations; this stone makes one invincible in battle. I know, in truth, as I put my hands into these stones, that they move nothing but my mind. Maybe, now, I need to stop shunning luck, start rubbing the terrapin’s nose and asking for intercession. I am tired. Keep my tissues untouched. Give me no other cure.

 

 

.

.

——-

Elissa Washuta is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.
Her first book, My Body Is a Book of Rules, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. 
Learn more about Elissa: http://washuta.net
Pre-order My Body Is a Book of Rules: http://washuta.net/index.php/book/purchase
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Is the Autoimmune Protocol a breeding ground for disordered eating?

Posted by on Jun 10, 2014 in Blog | 3 comments

Is the Autoimmune Protocol a breeding ground for disordered eating?

 

Sarah Ballantyne, author of the groundbreaking Autoimmune Protocol book The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Bodyis one of the most brilliant people I know. She writes at ThePaleoMom.com, and at that site as well as in her book, she outlines a very specific, very effective, and therefore necessarily very limited approach to paleo eating. If broken, it heals your gut.

By healing your gut, you heal a lot of other things, too.

It’s remarkable. Sarah has had had success with… I’m going to guess, and correctly, I believe, hundreds of thousands of people.

So short story is: the autoimmune protocol Sarah (and others, like one of my favorite women, Eileen Laird) outlines and advocates is the. bomb. digs.Bomb diggity Black

But I’ve always been wary.

For two reasons. 1) People without autoimmune diseases often eat an AIP for the sake of “better health.” But this is silly, because I and AIP advocates alike think it’s unnecessary, and doesn’t even benefit your health really, necessarily, unless you’re autoimmune. 2) People use this as an excuse to eat a controlled way of eating. 3) People sometimes feel unduly restricted on AIP and develop disordered behaviors. 4) People have a hard time transitioning out of AIP. 5) Obviously there are more than two reasons.

(And no, to answer my title’s question, the AIP doesn’t always beget disordered eating. But there’s definitely a “but” that belongs, hanging, at that end of that statement.  ”The AIP doesn’t beget disordered eating, but…”)

So anyway. I did an interview talking about these things with an AIP advocate named Eileen Laird, who writes at Phoenix Helix.com (what an amazing brand name, holy hell), who’s brilliant and lovely. There’s a lot of psychological stuff that swirls around AIP: fear of death, fear of illness, fear of freedom..

Good. Stuff.

@ here.

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Finding Strength After the Stage, a guest post by former fitness competitor and rabid body lover Madelyn Moon

Posted by on Jun 5, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Finding Strength After the Stage, a guest post by former fitness competitor and rabid body lover Madelyn Moon

 

The following post is written by a lovely and powerful new voice in the body love scene. Her name is Madelyn, and she used to be a body builder.

I first came across Madelyn’s work I believe at some point in 2013. To be honest, I wasn’t a fan. I was perhaps even appalled. A bit horrified, maybe. Sad. Angry. I mean – it was okay. But what she was selling on her website, more or less, was herself as a muscle-glorified sex object.

madelyn 2

Yep.

Madelyn-Moon-Fitness-Bikini

Mmhmm.

madelyn 3

Honestly, that’s got to be a hell of a body to let go of. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to step ‘down’ from so high a pedestal.

madelyn 4

Now this is the kind of photo I used to look at and weep tears of envy.

 

 If you go to her site today, you’ll see a lot of the same photos.  These kinds of photos sell appearances more than health, which isn’t my favorite way to inspire people.

Yet with a keen eye, you’ll see, too, a woman on a hell of a journey of change, and a set of photos that tell a story.

Because while so many of the photos are the same, the language is different. Madelyn talks about “health” and “inner strength” and “acceptance.” Those photos are old, and she and doesn’t compete any more.  Her invitation to join her mailing list reads like this:

“Ready to love your body? Sign up for the FREE eCourse “Mind Body Satisfaction, Sacrifice-Free” and learn how to fall in love with yourself exactly how you are. “

but anyway. It’s so powerful to witness someone coming through these changes and rocking them out. Madelyn now loves her body because of the way it feels far more than the way it looks.

Madelyn is over body building. And in love.

She recorded a hell of a youtube video about her journey -

- and if you’ve got ten minutes it’s definitely worth the watch.

Here she is, in her own words. You can find more of Madelyn (and her kickass podcast, which I was just recorded for last night) @ moonfitness.net.

————

The following story generally rings true for many people, which is why I’m such an open book in regards to my food and body issues growing up. Nobody is alone in this battle and there is most definitely a solution just waiting to be discovered. I am so glad I can now share my discovery of that solution.

 

I started my food obsession, body shaming, and negative self-worth at a really young age. When I was about 15 years old I watched a television show that warned against the dangers of anorexia, bulimia and the likes. Even though it warned against the tragic habit, it was the first time I had really heard about eating disorders and it stuck in my head as something to try out later and see what happened.

 

I wouldn’t say that I suffered from one specific eating “disorder” but I’ve had disordered eating most of my life. My relationship with food always depended on my relationship with my weight. And my relationship with weight depended on how “in control” I was of everything else. It was a terrible cycle that I seemed to never get out of.

 

I started the cycle as a vegetarian, mostly for animal rights, but it eventually turned into a weight control practice. I then realized I wanted the body of a fitness model and physique competitor, so I switched over to the meat eating clan and began to eat like a bodybuilder AKA six meals a day, every three hours, no salt, no fruit, everything had to be weighed and measured and eaten out of Tupperware. Soon enough, getting my body fat pinched every weekend was a typical activity, as well as my hour-long cardio sessions in the morning paired with lifting sessions in the evening. Amidst this loveless, foodless, deprived life, I was starting to become addicted to seeing my body transform. As the body fat melted off, my self-esteem skyrocketed. As my butt got rounder, my smile got larger.

 

After hitting the stage for my first and even second fitness competition, I gained a little weight back and returned to my average size. In fact, I was much stronger, healthier, happier, and fuller (physically and emotionally) but less toned. Womp, womp. The psychological struggles continued. I loathed my lack of leanness, I hated my distorted body image and I still measured and weighed my food in attempt to create that perfect body again.

 

Soon enough I discovered paleo after receiving a book to review for my blog, and then again, when a friend told me how awesome the “diet” had been for him. I became really interested and really involved in the community, where I met many people who taught me to love myself no matter what. Though this is easier said than done, after extreme commitment, positive affirmation, journaling, getting a dog, and moving states (not necessarily because of my body image struggles but it certainly didn’t hurt), I finally found something deep inside of me that was dying to come out.

 

Strength.

 

Not just physical strength but emotional strength. I developed the strength to challenge social norms and to decide for myself what I think “beautiful” really means. In the end, I decided beautiful means life. It means coffee in bed on a Sunday morning. It means an extra spoonful of peanut butter just because. It means going four wheeling or boating whenever I want, because I no longer have to worry about bringing Tupperware meals. Last but not least, it means being able to tell myself “it’s okay” to not work out when I don’t feel like it. It’s okay to put family and friends FIRST before the gym and bulk cooking. It’s okay. Why? Because I’m already beautiful.

As many people say, paleo is not just a diet. It’s a lifestyle. It means to live organically, stress-free, happy and healthy. Healthy can be subjective but for most people, it means to live a life that promotes your version of optimal health. It means to live in a way that promotes mind-body satisfaction, without the sacrifices.

When I first discovered paleo, I went the strictest route. I basically did a Whole30 but for four months. I became too rigid and decided that wasn’t the healthiest for me, personally. I even discovered I have no allergies to gluten, dairy, beans or grains. While that’s kind of cool, I didn’t go crazy on eating them because as I listened to my body, I discovered those foods don’t necessarily make me feel optimal energy.

Truthfully, I rarely eat gluten or legumes by choice because they don’t make me the best version of myself. Dairy on the other hand makes me feel like a rock star.

So I make it work for me. Paleo has allowed me to find the best version of myself by helping me realize what makes me feel best, inside and out.

There are no meal plans, no food scales, no body fat pinchers, no tiny swimsuits hanging on my “inspiration wall” and certainly no sports-bra and spandex clad photo shoots in my near future.

I’m so excited to now have the “Madelyn Moon Diet” and nothing else. And more than just the diet aspect, I now live a much more minimalistic life. I try to keep my household minimalistic, as well as my face (less is more, ladies) and even my workouts!

The people I have met in the paleo community have literally changed my life in every aspect. I could name you ten people right now that have impacted me in some way or another and have brought me to tears from their support and generosity.

I am in no way exactly where I want to be in terms of body image and my relationship with food, but I am much farther in my journey than where I started. I have come incredibly far in all actuality, and as long as I remember to keep up the self-love and acceptance, I will be in the best “shape” of my life (possibly literally, but that one is more metaphorically).

 

Because I wanted to share how I’ve learned to retrain my brain into loving my body just the way it is, as well as block out all of the lean body fitness fluff, I created an eCourse that guides readers step by step on how to do exactly that. The course is called Mind Body Satisfaction, Sacrifice-Free. The eCourse is completely free, and you will receive a lesson every four days. My goal with the course is to give you small, easily implemented changes you can make every day that will eventually lead you into non-negotiable self-love and body acceptance. To sign up for my eCourse simple go to my website here and type in your email address in the box at the top.

 

Lastly, I wanted to further share my passion for the ever-so-important mind body relationship by creating a podcast, called Mind Body Musings. The podcast features various guests that are well-known in the fitness industry who share their stories, theories, research and knowledge with us so that we can all better understand our bodies and brains. The podcast can be found on iTunes here, or you can go to my website here for the direct download links.

 

A big thank you to Stefani for letting me share my story with you today. Stay tuned for this story to be published in The Paleo Miracle 2 as well, along with many other inspirational mind body strengthening stories.

 

I hope you enjoy any newfound insight you learn from these two tools and further develop your own strength, beauty and self-love.

 

With love,

Madelyn Moon

:)

.

 

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PHEW. Taking a breather, gearing up, and holy crap, what’s next is awesome.

Posted by on May 27, 2014 in Blog | 5 comments

PHEW. Taking a breather, gearing up, and holy crap, what’s next is awesome.

 

Hey ladies!

Happy Tuesday. I hope you’ve had lovely Memorial day weekends. I watched a lot of TV. Like – a LOT. Like – 25 hours worth. This weekend’s indulgence of choice was Grimm. All those cops and fairy tale creatures…. they’re all just so. damn. good looking.

Often people tell me I must have a crazy, busy life. I always respond – “well. I do watch a F-ton of TV.”

Sometimes, anyway.

I felt like I really needed that downtime (and will still need more). It came on the heels of kicking off my consulting practice, which came on the heels of the Leaky Gut Webinar, which came on the heels of the Much More than a Mom Mother’s day summit, which came on the heels of the Primal Life Kit Ebook Bundle, which came on the heels of Paleo Fx 2014, which came on the heels of… what? Oh, wait, that’s right, a national book release that I had been promoting full time for three months.

So there’s some TV in my life right now.

I will also probably be a bit quiet on the blog for a little while.

This is not because I need a break from you, darling audience I love to pieces. It’s actually because I am doing a lot of work, but most of it behind the scenes.

(And still the TV.)

So what am I up to?

In my personal life, I am:

-learning how to sleep properly for the first time years (last Sunday I got eight hours of sleep for the first time in 470 days)  FOUR HUNDRED AND SEVENTY. Not coincidentally, last Monday I felt better than I have in four hundred and seventy days. I think I’ll be writing a blog post about this soonish.

-finding a dance partner and becoming a professional Zouk dancer

-working on my French

-preparing to go to France to work on my French and Zouk

These things make me very, very happy.

In my professional life, I am:

-working on building a staff. It’s about damn time. I need help, and desperately. (Hey, volunteers are great, too! ;) ) I’ve always been so terrified of spending money, and also of relying on other people – I’ve never had any help on any of my projects, ever - so it’s time for me to get over those fears. Hopefully in the next few weeks / months another fabulous woman or two will be jumping on board the cool ship.

-writing a new ebook. It’s probably going to be “Six steps to self love” but might also be “Love is the new skinny.” I love the concept of “Love is the new skinny” too much to let it go… so I’m fitting it in on the docket somewhere. I might actually release it on Amazon.

-building time into my schedule to take on consulting clients.

-rebuilding and re-branding EVERYTHING. Paleoforwomen.com is actually changing. We’re getting a new face and a new website and I AM SOOOOOOOOOOOO000000!!11!!!!11!!!COS0!!! excited. Now THIS it’s about damn time for. I’m not going to give it all away quite yet, but we’re getting bigger and better and closer to helping me work the job and write the books of my dreams.

-writing the next hardcover book. Again, without giving too much away (really this is for my own sake, since I bet the project will change significantly in the coming months), I won’t say too much. But I will say this: it’s about the philosophy of human nature. Mmmmmmm hmmmm. Talk about melding all the things I love into one book! Mmmmmmhmmmm.

The 'holy crap!' face.

The ‘holy crap the future is awesome!’ face.

 

So I’ll be a bit touch and go for the next few weeks/months probably, but all with really kickass stuff coming out in the meantime and at the end.

AND I’ll still be around because, well. I can’t seem to stay away.

And someone’s got to drag me away from all those damn handsome strangers on HBO.

 

 

 

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Announcing: Consultations with Stefani FINALLY open for business!

Posted by on May 20, 2014 in Blog | 3 comments

Announcing: Consultations with Stefani FINALLY open for business!

 

Hey there, family!

Those of you who have been around for a while know that I’ve been promising to open my doors again for years now.

And finally – finally! – I have cleared enough off of my to-do list to take on a limited number of clients. My heart is singing with gratitude and joy. It’s amazing to finally have the opportunity to share my gifts with you in this way.

The things I specialize in and can help you overcome is extensive.  Moreover, the female-specific angle is – honestly – not one you’re going to find many other places in the paleo web.

If at all.

My list of specialties include the physical, such as:

acne, headaches, weight loss, menstrual irregularities, infertility, PCOS, PMS, birth control woes, menopause, low libido, osteoporosis, and hypothyroidism

And also the mental, such as:

body image issues, low self-esteem, disordered eating behavior, binge eating, restrictive eating, addiction to exercise, food addiction, control issues, poor self-love, and perfectionism.

Because I’ve been there, and I’ve lived many of these things. I’ve swum in the seas of research, I’ve worked with hundreds of women, and I’ve written books. Therefore I have come out on equipped with all the knowledge and tools to help you on your journey I have always dreamed of, and then some.

Leap into wellness!

Leap into wellness!

To help you as best I can, I’ve come up with a whole slew of different services to offer – spanning from the super affordable 30 minute quickie session to the more detailed and connected hour and email access package… I even offer months long packages if you are on a journey and looking to heal on an on-going basis.

So check out more details on what I have to offer at the consultations page at http://www.paleoforwomen.com/consultations. You can book me and sign up for the service at the bottom of the page – and we can be set up and chatting within the week. Because it’s been so long in coming, I am already close to needing to develop a waitlist – so if you have an urgent need it may be wise to book as soon as you can. And regardless know simply that I am here for you however you need, and am excited about the possibility of being on your healing journey together.

With love,

stefani

 

 

 

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Do you have healthy poop? Leaky gut? It’s not too late to find out! Yet!

Posted by on May 15, 2014 in Blog | 5 comments

Do you have healthy poop? Leaky gut? It’s not too late to find out! Yet!

 

Last week I clued you in to some pretty cool stuff emerging in the paleosphere. (This is a RECAP and “it’s not too late to take advantage!” post.)  It was about your gut. It was about inflammation. And it was, most of all, about your poop.

I told all you about Leaky Gut. What’s Leaky Gut, again?

Leaky gut allows the stuff you’d otherwise excrete as feces – TOXIC food particles, environmental chemicals, and bacterial waste to leak through your digestive tract and into your body. Once inside, these foreign particles travel to different areas of your body and trigger an immune response, promoting inflammation and jumpstarting the development of chronic disease.

Instead of keeping the bad stuff out, the delicate lining of your intestine lets all the bad stuff in, and your body breaks down from the inside out.

You can even have leaky gut and not know it…. this happens all the time. I don’t even know if I have it. I think I might! It’s that silent and menacing a condition.

This is what leaky gut looks like. & it's the most under-diagnosed condition in the country.
So brain issues. Low energy. Uncomfortable digestion. Any kind of skin problem. Insulin dysregulation. Weight gain. Autoimmune diseases. Hormone imbalance. Infertility. Stress! Anxiety! Insomnia! (Big issues for me)

Yikes, and yikes, and yikes, indeed.

So I shared with you a bunch of cool diagnostic and healing stuff! Here’s the recap:

1) A quiz to help you see if you have leaky gut and how severe it might be.

2) An awesome infographic demonstrating the different kinds of poop. Do you have the healthy kind of poop? Check out the cute-as-hell poop diagrams to find out! @ here.

THEN,3)  Steve put on, IMHO, the most informative webinar the paleo world has seen to date.

Did you go?

Did you miss out!?

What did we talk about?

  • How leaky gut causes local and systemic inflammation, which can attack your body’s “weak” links” and speeds up disease
  • Why food allergies are directly related to leaky gut.
  • How gas, bloating and other digestive problems can be caused by infections in the gut.
  • The fastest way to get rid of gut infections.
  • 3 Supplements to try right away if you want to feel better (Yes, probiotics is one of them!)
  • What NOT to eat and Exactly what to eat for leaky gut
  • How GMO’s, Concussions (I know, right?!) and NSAID’s trigger leaky gut
  •  THEN Steve and Jordan did a Q & A for a whole hour. There, we talked about Candida, Adrenal fatigue, SIBO, Gastritis, Type 1 Diabetes, Reversing Autoimmunity and Food Allergies…. all of which you get to hear about if you watch the replay (and again, all for free!).

So if its not obvious already, I was there and it was AWESOME. Not only did it help me with my own health, but also with my work with my consulting clients… maybe you can watch it and not need me anymore. :)

So anyway. This webinar had dozens of thousands of attendees…

And now you can watch it for FREE, on YOUR OWN TIME (finally! a webinar you can watch at your leisure!)

But only until Friday (tomorrow!) at midnight is it free… so grab your pass AFAP… watch it with your dog, over dinner, with a bowl of coconut ice cream…

At least that’s how I did it.

Oh, also, 4) I’m giving you a free copy of one of my ebooks if you watch the replay of the seminar. Simply forward your registration and your favorite part of the seminar to paleoforwomenteam@gmail.com and you’ll receive a FREE COPY of Birth Control Unlocked…. all because I really care about your gut and want to help you heal.

So the webinar is replaying for free. You can take the quiz. Look at the poop chart. There’s also a list of the 19 leaky gut triggers Steve sends out for download for free. All amazing stuff to help you figure out if you’ve got leaky gut and what you as a unique individual need to do for your own healing.

Because we are all unique snowflakes, and we all have our own unique healing to do.

Steve’s got lots of amazing resources available on leaky gut…the kind of stuff even I learn from… These are not those gimmicky web draw-you-in things. Just. a. seminar. chart. quiz. guide. set of resources.  (@ Leakygutresources.com) Because leaky gut is a nasty monster thing and we all deserve to be free to be healthy and happy.

Or something. :)

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Do you have a healthy gut?

Posted by on May 5, 2014 in Blog | 3 comments

Do you have a healthy gut?

 

I spent all last week promoting – and you spent all last week reading about (thank you) – an awesome product. I like to share things that are cool. Nonetheless I was looking forward to a break…. a weekend full of dancing and White Collar marathons (my new TV addiction … it’s almost nothing but devastatingly handsome men in suits) … and then I finally checked out this set of leaky gut materials all the paleo professionals have been talking about.

I got sucked in.

And barricaded myself in my room at 9pm on a Saturday night. I promised myself I could go dancing if I sat down and investigated thoroughly.

[It is now Sunday afternoon. And five episodes of White Collar later.... So much for diligence...]

This is what leaky gut looks like. & it's the most under-diagnosed condition in the country.

This is what leaky gut looks like. & it’s the most under-diagnosed condition in the country.

 

As for leaky gut… what is it?

Leaky gut allows the stuff you’d otherwise excrete as feces – TOXIC food particles, environmental chemicals, and bacterial waste to leak through your digestive tract and into your body. Once inside, these foreign particles travel to different areas of your body and trigger an immune response, promoting inflammation and jumpstarting the development of chronic disease.

Instead of keeping the bad stuff out, the delicate lining of your intestine lets all the bad stuff in, and your body breaks down from the inside out.

Brain issues. Low energy. Uncomfortable digestion. Any kind of skin problem. Insulin dysregulation. Weight gain. Autoimmune diseases.

Yikes, and yikes, and yikes, indeed.

I also happen to know from years of clinical experience that gut issues are often the foundation of hormone issues – like PCOS – and male pattern symptoms like acne and facial hair. Why? Because an unhealthy gut causes inflammation, which causes cortisol and insulin levels to rise, which causes testosterone production in the ovaries, which throws a wrench in the menstrual cycle, which derails fertility and causes eight million kinds of symptoms and imbalance.

The gut is a real important issue for women’s health… not something I’ve discussed as much on this site as I should’ve. By miles.

So… what then? Where do I, you, we, start?

A good, solid paleo diet helps with leaky gut.

“Paleo” is about 80 percent of the answer.

Eliminating the gut irritants grains, dairy, and legumes – which is what most “paleo people” do – is a big step towards healing a damaged gut and eliminating all the symptoms that come from it. This is one of the biggest reasons I and so many other health professionals eat paleo. We want our guts to be healthy. We know that gut health is the most important factor for whole body health.

Period.

So eat paleo. Eliminate potential gut irritants. 100%. No cheating.

At least for several months if your symptoms are bad. Several weeks if not.  If you’ve got any symptoms related to mental health, gut health, skin health, or hormone health — leaky gut could be your culprit. Clean up your diet with paleo adherence and see if the problems get better.

You might even have leaky gut and not even know it. Leaky gut can silently inflame your body at a slow, steady stream for years and years. I don’t want to scare you. That’s just a fact. It happens to people on a regular basis. It’s a serious problem worth – at minimum – a clean paleo diet for a month. This gives your body a chance to heal.

What else?

Chances are good you’ll still need (or at least benefit from) more tweaking.

The GAPS diet, the specific carbohydrate diet, Sarah Ballantyne’s autoimmune protocol… these are three different diet plans – very specific and highly well-attested to around the globe – designed to heal a damaged gut. Vitamin A may be crucial for some people. Fermented foods or probiotic supplementation. Avoiding fructose. Increasing your intake of leafy greens. Reducing insoluble fiber. Increasing soluble fiber. It’s all very tricky because every person has a different gut environment. Different symptoms, both obvious and hidden ones.

With more symptoms, it may require.. as I said. tweaking. More on which in a moment.

Do I have it?

I don’t know. I’ve always wondered. I really have no idea. Sometimes my digestion isn’t awesome. I have some skin issues but I know my hormones are the biggest players in that. I’ve dealt with significant stress in my life. I sleep very poorly. Do I have it? I don’t know. (I’m not a leaky gut expert… though I’m trying to learn through Steve.)

So I took a quiz! Steve made a quiz! Like so:

 

Fullscreen capture 2014-05-04 AM 113752

Now you know I’m a tab hoarder.

I’m willing to bet my high risk is because I’m a stress monster.

But who knows. Maybe it’s the three pounds of blueberries I ate yesterday afternoon.

The kind of tweaking I’d need? I don’t know yet. Sarah tells me I might need more vitamin A.

I have a feeling I need to sleep more. But I’m addicted to dancing and we all have our weaknesses.

I have yet to watch my free videos and read the documents from Steve’s quiz.

As for you? You can take it now, too!

If you want, you can take it @ here.  Steve’s got lots of amazing resources available for investigating and overcoming leaky gut…the kind of stuff that teaches you what kind of tweaking you might need… this is just one of them. It’s not one of those gimmicky web draw-you-in things. Just. a. quiz. (@ Leakygutresources.com) Because leaky gut is a nasty monster thing and we all deserve to be free to be healthy and happy.

Or something. :)

 

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