A Chronic Illness Christmas

A Chronic illness christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…except for me, at 2am, realizing that something I ate on Christmas Eve had caused a flare up.

My second this month.

Every time I tried to fall back asleep it would only be minutes before my gut would wake me up again. I had finally gotten comfortable enough to go back to sleep around 7am when my family decided it was time to wake up for presents, and then we could go about our business.

This was the first time I had a moderate flare up at home and my parents saw first hand what I looked like when my digestive system decided it was time for a revolution. It mainly looked like an ashen face, nausea, and sleeping through Heidi, The Bishop’s Wife, and Christmas in Conneticut. Christmas breakfast was a homemade popover eaten over the span of 6 hours, a bottle of Gatorade and some tortilla chips, and dinner was Hawaiian rolls and more tortilla chips. With another Gatorade to wash it down. (Hydration is important, y’all)

If you follow my Instagram you might have noticed I get sick a lot. Weirdly enough, this is a new thing for me. I have never gotten sick this often, it was only recently that it’s started to happen a few months apart (and in this past month’s case, a week and a half). I’ve tried to be careful with what I eat, eating low FODMAP and avoiding trigger foods (one of which is, unfortunately, hummus… :c). Unfortunately, it looks like I need to limit alcohol even more than I already do, and really watch my sugar intake.

People who have chronic illnesses apparent since childhood probably know all of what I’m feeling right now. Maybe they’re saying, ‘welcome to the club, suck it up’, or they’re nodding and saying ‘yep, I’ve been there, friend’. This isn’t my first Christmas affected by GI issues, but it was the one that really sent me over the top in the fatigue department.

I don’t know if it’s denial, or maybe just forgetfulness, that caused the flare up I had on Christmas. All I know is that there were a lot of tears shed, guilt felt as I had to sleep while my family ate Christmas dinner, and a lot of the pity party ‘I’m so sick of being sick’ feelings that I’m sure many people aren’t strangers to.

This being my second flare up in a month, it might be time to seek out opinions from medical professionals, and by being open about it here I’m really hoping to help you guys feel less alone and maybe seek out professional opinions of your own.

Christmas can already be a major source of stress for people who have issues with family, or no family to go home to at all. I can only imagine what it must be like to have a chronic illness and that kind of stress combined, considering stress can be a major trigger for chronic illnesses. The best thing you and I can do, beans, is working to reduce stress with exercise, mindfulness, and in some cases avoiding the things that cause you stress. Taking care of yourself should always be a top priority, even during the holidays. Remember, you need to look after yourself just as much as you should look after others.

Overall, looking past the disease, it was a beautiful Christmas. I went to Church for the first time in a very long time, and was lucky to give and receive lovely gifts and spend time with my family. Molly enjoyed having a cuddle buddy all day, especially since I was wrapped up in blankets trying to keep warm.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and I’ll look forward to hearing all about your New Year’s!

Let me know your favorite part about your holiday via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook!

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Making Sense of Media Muck

justlieontheinternet

Hey y’all!

Let’s talk about the bond between nutrition science/research and the media.

Why? Good question. It’s because everywhere you go there’s someone writing about how one kind of food is great, the other is bad, etc. It can get really confusing, right?

If you’re neither a nutrition professional/student or a media person, you’ve been caught in the crossfires of nutrition and media every time a new study has been posted.

While it seems like the ammo is only clickbait titles and the same articles on your newsfeed time and again from the same couple big media sources, the ammunition really is faulty advice at best from people who aren’t well read in nutrition research.

It can get confusing for someone who doesn’t study this kind of stuff for a living to sort through. Luckily, it’s easy to learn how to pick up on the “faulty” nutrition articles that are out there.

Let’s start with a hard truth.

There’s no “selling point” for media outlets in saying that food isn’t inherently good or bad, or everything in the right amounts is fine, but consumers are more likely to click if an article promises a get-rich-quick scheme to be healthy or the doomsday headline that all carbs will lead you to a life of heart disease and misery.

 

Plus it’s easier to assign morality to food than launch into the grey area of  “moderation”- that’s left for dietitians and I think we do a pretty good job. No bias, though.

Are you in the same boat as Buster right now? Why would someone lie about something as important as nutrition, right?

Everyone from Washington Post to Buzzfeed has people covering nutrition studies and the most recent one is the PURE study. You’ve definitely heard of it in some way or another recently on your newsfeeds.

Some zingers of a headline include:

  • “PURE Shakes Up Nutrition Field: Finds High Fat Beneficial” (Medscape)
  • “Huge new study casts doubt on conventional wisdom about fat and carbs” (Statnews)
  • “A Lot Fat diet might kill you, new study finds” (Diet Doctor)

What are some common themes you see in those headlines? Doom and gloom, right?

Here’s an insider tip: the PURE study didn’t really rattle Registered Dietitians in the way the media seems to think. And not just because most of the RDs I’ve met are really chill people.

In fact, here are a few articles that are written by doctors and RDs breaking down the study! I’m not at the point where I feel I could summarize it, so here are some sources I look to:

  • New Nutrition Study Changes Nothing from The Atlantic
    • Favorite quote is: “Eating in ways that are good for our bodies isn’t conceptually complicated. It’s complicated by money and time and access—but eating based on scientific findings is not”
  • NutritionWonk’s blog post (Also, her blog is amazing in general. Recommend x100)
  • The Rooted Project’s infographic for my visual learners

If you look into the Atlantic article I shared and remember what we talked about a bit earlier in the blog post, you can understand why sensationalist headlines “sell” better than ones that say more chill things like “Nutrition study changes nothing”.

The idea that everything we knew is being turned on it’s head reads as more exciting. It pulls our attention to it and causes us to want to read more. After all, everyone has some knowledge that food becomes energy and nutrition/food matters. Now the readers, you guys, get the promise of “insider info”. Unfortunately, sensationalist articles tend to be incorrect in one way or another.

Now, why is that?

Look at the authors of the articles I shared for you guys to read.

They’re written by experts in the field, who do this kind of stuff (breaking down research) for a living. They’re open and honest about the study and make it easy for you to find the study to read for yourself and provide further reading. They’re not trying to sell their books, services, or products. Just plain honesty.

When you’re browsing social media, these are the places to go when reading an article about any kind of science. You don’t see a biologist writing about physics. Trust the sources written by nutrition professionals.

Conventional nutrition advice leans more towards moderation than it does extremism.

NutritionWonk, Nutrevolve, and Yoni Friedoff are the places I go most often for help when reading research regarding nutrition. You can always branch off from there to find more places to read about it, or if you stay tuned, we’ll cover how to read nutrition research on this blog in the coming weeks.

Which, along with reading and researching on your own, also helps you determine legitimate sources of nutrition news for yourself.

Much love,

Em

Slow Sunday: Movement and Mochas

Hey, ya’ll!

So, the University gym doesn’t open until 1pm on Sundays. For the most part of my time at school, I’d just wait until the gym opened before I did about half an hour to an hour of cardio.

This semester is a little different.

I decided that I’d give a local coffee shop a try (something you’ll learn about me really fast: I love coffee. Plain, lattes, mochas, you name it, I love it). Only thing is, I don’t have a car, and it was in the downtown area.

Now past me would have balked and stuck to the campus coffee shop (I can walk there) so I could get my cardio in. But current me realized that with my bike I’ve got the freedom to head off campus. So I biked for about 40 minutes to reach the coffee shop, and I loved it! Definitely going to add it into my weekly routine.

 

slowsunday1
Almost done reading Dr. Stephan Guyenet’s “The Hungry Brain” and drinking a really good iced soy mocha!

 

Here’s my IG post about it!

What about the gym, though?

Good question. I want you to recognize what comes to mind first at the word “exercise” or “movement”.

Did you picture going all out in a workout class, or at the gym? For a while I did too.

There was a stretch of years where I really didn’t feel accomplished if I spent a long time at the gym, burning a certain number of calories and achieving a certain level of sweatiness. If I didn’t reach this level, I’d often feel grumpy or wouldn’t acknowledge the fact that I moved at all. I would even sacrifice important healing time from illness to work out.

Over the years though, I’ve come to realize something: while movement is important to keeping us healthy, (the CDC recommends about an hour a day for teens) it doesn’t necessarily have to be the level I had been trying to force my body to perform at day in and day out.

If you’re in the place where you’re at the gym for hours a day to fit some kind of ideal, start peeling back what “head space” you’re in. Ask yourself:

  • What happens if you don’t workout but instead, go for a walk with a friend, family member, dog, or a podcast you really like? (other kinds of movement can go here too: dancing, biking, gardening)

The answer is: not much! 

  • You’ll get movement in and you’ll get out of the house.
  • You won’t be blacklisted on some kind of fitness list.
  • Your joints will get a break from intense exercise and muscles will have a chance to heal.
  • You’ll spend quality time with someone important to you, another key component in living a healthy lifestyle.

My challenge for you guys this week is to find ways you like to move.

Maybe you don’t exercise at all- that’s okay too! Keep in mind that a little movement is always good.

Remember: you don’t have to go to a gym to start moving and living a healthier, more active lifestyle. You can bike to your friend’s house instead of driving! Try a hike with some of your family members or with your furry friend! Give a workout DVD a shot as a break from your Netflix binge!

Side note: If you find yourself still obsessing with calories, I challenge you to take off your fitness tracker and switch displays on cardio machines (if you use them) so it won’t show calories burned. It’s something I do when I find myself becoming more focused on numbers than how I feel and I’ve found it to be really beneficial. 

The main idea is that you pick up a hobby that helps you both short and long term: you get the immediate benefit of movement (mood improvements, some time outside, or even time with friends, feeling of accomplishment afterward) and the long term benefits (combating chronic disease, energy levels gradually increase, improved sleep health, making friends through a shared hobbies).

Next week on Slow Sunday I’ll write about why it’s important to not sit for long periods of time, so until then, my challenge for you is to move a little bit every day and if you can, tag me on Instagram (@centerstagenutrition) to show me your weekly movements! I’ll try and share my movements, too!

If you’re looking for some Facebook groups to help support this new habit, I really recommend Body Positive Fitness with Michele Burmaster. I’ve been a part of this group for about a year and the atmosphere is just fantastic. Michele is someone I look up to, both personally and professionally, regarding body positivity and fitness!

 

Any questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat!

 

Much love,

Em