From the Pages of the Commode Commander: Life with Crohn’s Disease

Hi everybody, I hope you had an amazing weekend! Today’s guest post is very special to me because it was written by my best friend, Katelyn. Katelyn is a very dear person in my life because we grew up together, catching crawdads in the Petaluma creeks and spending time in our self-named “Fairy hollow,” a beautiful ravine in a meadow that was unseen by most. She is the funniest person I know, and she has wicked smarts and beauty to boot. She’s tackled her disease head-on and has been an inspiration for me in how to make my new diagnosis work for me rather than torture me. Please take the time to read about her experiences below, because as I’ve said before, you must advocate for your own health. I found this post extremely relevant for anybody trying to better themselves through nutrition, so I think you’ll really like it. Katelyn has just started a blog, too! Show her some comment love and enjoy!

Me and my bestie Katelyn in fake Italy, aka, the Bellagio, in Vegas

Me and my bestie Katelyn in fake Italy, aka, the Bellagio, in Vegas

From the Pages of the Commode Commander: How My Disease Helped Me Become Healthy

I’m constantly analyzing the kinds of foods I eat. Nutrition is one of my top priorities. Exercise is a must. I’m an avid label-reader and ingredient investigator. One might assume I’m a health-enthusiast or just another dieter from these statement. While the first assumption is actually quite true, the second is not: I’m a bit more than that. I have Crohn’s Disease.

I’ve never thought more about food in my life until I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) resulting in swelling and dysfunction of the intestinal tract, a little over a year ago. I ate whatever I wanted, although I suffered constantly as a result. Before my diagnosis, I tried many things to ebb the inflammation and pain in my insides: countless diets, not eating at all (I know this is awful but food = discomfort!), herbs, acupuncture, meditation, you-name-it. Nothing stuck. So eventually I said, “Screw it. If everything hurts me, then I’m eating everything!” Trust me when I say you can’t give into this urge.

We all have good days and bad days. As humans these emotional ebbs and flows are a given. Having an amazing support system -including Alyssa!- has been what’s gotten me through my lowest times. It’s important to be firm and consistent when it comes to getting the results you want; but you also have to remember to show yourself some love. Below are my top, three tips for helping achieve this balance.

#1: Quick fixes don’t last

I know how frustrating it feels to try things again and again with no success. Our culture has the tendency to gravitate toward quick fixes and instant gratification. My chiropractor years ago used a great analogy for this: he said, “Katelyn, you’re only addressing the tip of the iceberg. There’s a whole lotta ice underneath that’s being neglected!” The iceberg analogy is pretty common, so it might appear trite. But the underlying message rings true: if you ignore the root of the problem you may experience a temporary form of relief, but sooner or later you’re going to realize the mass of ice beneath is surfacing to derail you.

It took me countless years to admit that what I was putting into my body was actually exacerbating my condition and inflicting unnecessary damage. There will always be a quick fix, a miracle pill or a new “super” and trendy food force-fed to us by the “experts.” But know this: what you eat matters and the choices you make- what to eat, what to avoid- matter. Make wise choices. Find foods that fill, sustain and nourish you. Creating and sticking to a healthy, balanced diet is the first step to achieving equilibrium, health and weight-wise. Stop eating foods that “hurt” you.

#2:  Avoid food fanaticism

You’ve adopted a healthy diet and you’re feeling empowered. “But I could do even more,” you say to yourself. “I could eat even better, exercise even harder and educate myself even more!” So you start poring over every label, begin meticulously tracking your exercise regime and find yourself -innocently of course- preaching to your friends and family about your new and exciting lifestyle changes. I’m not saying this is all bad, but tread lightly. You don’t want to cross over to the obsessive side. I know first hand how good intentions can quickly escalate into border-line OCD preoccupation.

I discovered a diet, a Chrohn’s version of the macrobiotic diet, that was extremely effective in relieving my symptoms. My initial joy in finding something that worked, but that was healthy and gradual, overpowered my rational side. I thought, “If I’m feeling this good, I bet I could feel &@% amazing!” So I adapted the diet to an extreme. I ended up restricting myself so much that I crashed and burned a few weeks later. In bed, exhausted, I wondered, “What happened?” Grudgingly I had to admit to myself that I had caused my own collapse. Be balanced. Find some wiggle room. No one can be perfect all the time. Stick to what works and have foods to “fall back on.” And please, don’t get preachy. We all know that backfires.

#3: Shut out the “Nay-Sayers”

There are going to be people who try to bring you down. There will be people that “poo poo” your latest diet or exercise routine. There will be some pontificator who thinks he/she knows exactly what will work for your body. There are still people who de-legitimize my disease: they say, “it’s all in your head” or “you need pills; what you eat doesn’t matter.” In the past I’ve wanted to silence these people with a swift kick to the face. Now I don’t let the words get under my skin and move on. Only you- OK and maybe your doctor or nutritionist- knows what’s best for YOU. You know YOU. Diets are not a one-size-fits-all. You have to try things on, test things out. It’s OK to talk shop with friends or explore recommendations, but don’t let this overshadow what your gut (had to include a Crohn’s reference!) is telling you.

4 thoughts on “From the Pages of the Commode Commander: Life with Crohn’s Disease

  1. Wonderful post Katelyn! I’m very happy you’re getting a grip on your nutrition to get healthy and you’re absolutely spot on with all your tips 🙂

    • Thanks all! I’m really excited to share my tips and hope to uplift rather than overwhelm…I know it’s easy to feel that way with a chronic condition or not. Best of luck to you all in your quests for health! xo

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