Sick and Tired
When I was 25 years old, I got sick. Not just a cold or flu, or even a string of colds and flu.
Here I was, in the “prime of my life,” but I felt exhausted every day, was putting on pounds like never before, had migraine headaches several times a week, feeling depressed, and couldn’t stop slurping up caffeine and grabbing chocolate throughout the day.
Getting sick was one of the best things that ever happened to me, because it was a huge wake-up call.
I can’t stand not feeling well. And to feel that bad for weeks and months was just more than I could take. I went to a doctor who asked me about my symptoms. When I explained how I was feeling, I was given two prescriptions: one pain medication for my headaches and one anti-depressant.
This is not the answer, I thought. I never filled those prescriptions.
So, What Are You Eating?
Instead, I reached out and looked for a more holistically minded doctor. I knew my mom had some food allergies, and I wanted to find out if I had any sensitivities.
Sitting on the examination table in this new doctor’s office, I was surprised to see posters with vegetables, pamphlets talking about vitamins and supplements, and a diagram of the human body with energy meridians and acupuncture points all over it.
When my doctor finally arrived and sat down across from me, one of his first questions wasn’t “Why are you here today?” or “What are your symptoms?” Instead, he asked, “What is your daily diet like?”
That one question blew the case wide open! I started to detail my diet at the time:
Breakfast: cereal with milk and coffee or a pastry with a latte on the way to work
Lunch: pizza and soda, subway sandwich and soda, or hamburger with fries and … you guessed it, soda
Snacks: salted nuts, chocolate, another latte, crackers and cheese, maybe an orange
Dinner: pasta with meat and cheese, Chinese take-out, soup and garlic bread, turkey sandwich with potato chips … you get the picture.
Nary a fresh fruit, rarely green vegetables, and often soda and caffeine throughout the day. Oh and sugar – lots of sugar.
This doctor didn’t recommend any painkillers or anti-depressants.
Instead he talked with me about how my diet was causing my discomfort, as well as my weight gain and lack of energy. He gave me a sample list of menus for the week, and suggested some books to read. He also told me that my sugar intake was feeding yeast in my body called “candida albicans”.
And he told me I should go off sugar and caffeine to help my body recover, balance and start to heal. He said, “Alex, you need a detox.”
I had about five minutes of freaking out, and then something clicked – I had been feeling so bad over the last few months, even giving up sugar wouldn’t be so bad if it helped alleviate some of the pain and suffering.
The diet he recommended was wheat-free, sugar-free, caffeine-free and excluded all animal products except a few eggs a week and some salmon.
I began to read everything I could and learned that a vegan diet, totally free of animal products, was an additional way I could improve my health.
I jumped in with both feet. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I started eating tofu for the first time, learned to enjoy stevia in my herbal tea, and only ate a small piece of chocolate a couple of times that first week. The first few days were really tough.
But, about 7-10 days later, I remember waking up and feeling – awake! It was amazing. I actually got out of bed and felt rested – and it was the best feeling ever. It was so easy to continue on this new eating plan because I felt so much better. I had energy to start going to the gym five days a week.
It was freeing and enlivening to take out the foods that were hurting my body. And I began to learn how to cook foods that would actually help me feel better and heal! Vegetables and whole grains were a revelation.
I also had the energy and clarity to look at the rest of my life and realized that my diet wasn’t the only thing that needed detoxing. I was unhappy with my career path, so I found a new job and went back to school. I wasn’t connected or passionate in my intimate relationship, so my sweet boyfriend and I went our separate ways.
Once I started pruning the dispassionate things from my life, my energy and life opened up even more, and things really took off! My new career of healthy chef and holistic health counselor was fun, soul-filling, and interesting. I started dating new people and found deeper, more intimate relationships.
Detoxing and Weeding – My Two Favorite Pastimes
Looking back, it all makes sense.
See, I grew up in my parents’ garden. We had weekly chores that included raking, stacking wood, and cutting the lawn. Weeding and pruning were my favorite chores.
I love looking at a plant and finding what doesn’t need to be there, removing injured or dying flowers, branches and leaves, and cutting away the dead wood.
Taking away the useless, even harmful parts of a bush or tree help it grow stronger, create more blooms and leaves, and result in a more vibrant plant.
That’s what detox is like for people, too.
I love looking at someone’s diet and lifestyle, getting into the details about how they feel and what foods they choose. Finding and cutting away the harmful, useless aspects of a persons diet and life empower them to grow stronger, feel energized and create a new, powerful way of being.
Getting Clear, Without Judgment
My career is filled with opportunities to help people – teaching, writing, sharing healing recipes, information and products. I get to explore new and old methods of detoxing all the time – and the results are glorious. My clients all come from different places and backgrounds, but they all have two things in common – a desire to feel healthy and a “knowing” that choosing different foods can help them feel whole.
Clearing away the “dead wood” of my diet was the first step toward growth and healing. Once the no-longer-passionate lifestyle fell away, I found that my energy and life totally opened up, and amazing things became possible.
I’ve since published three books and traveled the world premiering “Super-Size Me” with my son’s father, Morgan Spurlock. I live in New York City and have incredible friends and colleagues who continually inspire me.
While my diet and lifestyle aren’t always as “perfect” as they were in the beginning, I now recognize the signs faster that my body and energy are off balance. One chocolate dessert and one glass of wine usually make for a pretty groggy, impatient mommy in the morning.
Looking at your own diet and lifestyle, ask yourself: What is my body truly needing right now? Does this serve my life? What can I remove to help my body thrive and heal? Are there different choices I could be making that will energize me, help me succeed and live with delicious vitality?
For more information on how to optimize your life, visit deliciousvitality.com.
Photo credit: clogsilk