health

Healing Beyond Diet, Part 1: Sydney’s Story

As many of you know and as I briefly shared in my last guest post, I’ve been raising awareness around the topic of “healing diets” and eating disorders. When I opened the door around this topic at the end of 2017, I got a lot of feedback. Many people wanted to collaborate and I realized this was a topic no one was talking about but that really needed to be discussed.
I wanted to find a way to bring more people into the conversation and collaborate with those who reached out to me. So, I decided to start a guest blog series that I have titled ‘Healing Beyond Diet’. I am going to be sharing guest posts from others in the chronic illness community who have also suffered with an eating disorder or disordered eating habits/poor relationship to food. I have found many in the chronic illness community have struggled with “healing diets” (whether doctor recommended or self prescribed in an effort to heal disease) because of a history with eating disorders/disordered eating or because the healing diets themselves bred a poor relationship with food.
For the most part, doctors are not educated about eating disorders unless they seek out that extra knowledge. Therefore, many prescribe diets and even ridicule patients for not following “healing diets” without considering a patients past or mental health. They often don’t offer much support around the diet aspect of health and this can be very detrimental. I hope to raise awareness around this topic and hopefully inspire others seek help if necessary or create an environment where we can positively support one another regarding the diet aspect of chronic illness.
Some of my guest bloggers will simply be sharing their opinions or stories while others will answer a series of questions I have sent them (and some will combine both formats).  I realize not everyone relates to this topic, but I think it is important to discuss. Whether you relate to the topic or not, I encourage you to read at least one of the posts in this series so you can educate yourself and be aware of this taboo topic within the health community… perhaps you will want to help us raise awareness or you will develop a new perspective on this area.
Alright, let’s get into our first guest post! I want to first provide a trigger warning (which I will do before each post in this series): This post contains discussion about eating disorders. I trust that you will take care of yourself and do what is best for you in regards to putting yourself first for ultimate healing.
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Sydney’s Story
[The art in this post is all done by Sydney. Check out her website, linked at the end of this post, for more of her amazing work!]
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My name is Sydney and I’m an emerging artist that is trying to figure out her place in the world. I grew up in sunny southern California as a happy, healthy only child with a huge imagination and without a care in the world, I remember playing pretend in my backyard and obsessing over animals. When I was 13, my parents broke the news that my dad had gotten a new job in the freezing city of Chicago. I was heart broken. I would have to leave all of my friends, family, and the safety of the neighborhood I grew up in. Once I moved, an array of issues began. Looking back now, I can see mental illness began in various aspects of my life before I moved.
To make a long story short, I spent years in treatment for depression and anxiety (before even moving). I developed an eating disorder upon moving to Chicago, which is where I began treatment. After becoming weight restored, I found an integrative psychiatrist that suspected that there was something wrong that was causing some of these mental health issues. After a year of refusing to be tested for Lyme disease and the debilitating physical symptoms I was having (these were chalked up to anxiety before I met with him), I finally agreed to be tested. Like most, my results were inconclusive. But, once I did the Armin test (sent to Germany), I lit up like a Christmas tree. I tested positive for Lyme, Bartonella, and Babesia. Since then, I was also diagnosed with POTS, CFS/ME, Chronic pain, MCAS, and Mold toxicity. After three years of treatment, I spent 4 months in intensive treatment every single day doing IV ozone, vitamins, and IV silver through a picc line. After treatment, I redid the Armin test and every. single. test. came back negative. I am now in remission and feel better than ever before. I have now started college while still in high school, taken on a full time internship, work for a charity, and manage to take care of the army of animals I live amongst. Remission is possible.  
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1. Can you talk a little bit about your history with an eating disorder and if you are still struggling or feel like you are recovered from it?
Once I moved out to Chicago, my self confidence was gone. I went through various traumatic events that caused me to develop PTSD. I needed coping skills and I didn’t have any. I convinced myself that the only thing that I could do to make people like me (and make me like myself) was to lose weight. Thus began my spiral into anorexia. I won’t go into many details but just like most, once I reached my goal weight, it wasn’t enough. I needed to go more. This kept going until I was so sick that I went into a hospital and was told that If I hadn’t come in that day, my organs would have shut down. This was almost five years ago. After many inpatient stays, PHPs, IOPs, and countless therapy sessions, I began to see the other side without an ED. Even though I am weight restored, don’t get me wrong, I still struggle very much. Even though the physical behaviors are gone, I see a therapist weekly to stay on top everything. Recovery is a life long process. 
 
2. If you began a restrictive “healing diet” for your illness, can you tell me why you chose to do that?
Before beginning my 4 month treatment, I agreed that I would be gluten free for 2 months prior, during, and after my treatment. I also decided to go dairy free. Sugar is my comfort food, so I decided that I would not go sugar free, but I would switch to natural alternatives like agave and uncut stevia leaf. I chose to do this because I knew that for treatment to be most effective, I needed to reduce the amount of inflammation that went in my body through food. It was a very hard decision, but it was worth it in the long run. I still eat dairy free and gluten free, but plan to start re-introducing dairy in the summer. 
3. How did going on the “healing diet” impact your ED/relationship with food? 
The healing diet really caused alot of issues between me and food. I started to see foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. I felt like a failure if I ate something that had something I wasn’t supposed to eat in it. At the center I was receiving Lyme treatment, I felt really bad about myself when people told me I wasn’t ‘restricting’ enough.  I would be told ‘Well, it doens’t matter that you cut out those foods because you are eating all these other things you shouldn’t eat blah blah blah….’ This was really challenging for me because I had to work incredibly hard to avoid falling back into my eating disorder. 
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4. Were you able to find ways to cope with/keep your ED under control while on the “healing diet”? If so, can you share some of those tips with the readers? If not, how did you move forward?
It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it really helped me to stop over analyzing what I put into my body. People would tell me what I should and shouldn’t eat, but I had to CONSTANTLY remind myself that what I am doing is good for MY BODY. It might not work for everyone and some might need to limit other foods as well, but I don’t. I left Lyme Facebook groups and un-followed ‘Lyme diet’ people that were encouraging medical restricting on social media. This was a big step for me, but it really helped to not compare myself to others. Everyones treatment is extreamly different and what one person does might not work for someone else. And I did something right because I achieved remission while still eating some of the ‘forbidden’ foods on the Lyme diet. 
 
5. Do you have any tips on how to manage ED recovery with chronic illness recovery in terms of diet/food?
The body positivity community has really helped me during this journey. I’m still dealing with the mental aspect of an eating disorder and having my social media feed filled with strong women who love their imperfect bodies is really empowering, instead of people who are sick and miserable. I still follow people in the Lyme community, but only people who show the positive and negatives of the illness. Some of my favorite people on IG are @simonemariposa @winnieharlow and @baddiewinkle! I really enjoy podcasts, as well, and I love listening to Every Body podcast and She’s All Fat Pod podcast!
 
6. Please share anything else you feel is relevant or you want to discuss around this topic.
The last ‘tip’ I would like to mention is about one thing to consider when struggling with deciding if the healing diet is right for you or not. Lyme is a whole bunch of inflammation, right? And not eating certain foods helps reduce the amount of inflammation we put into our bodies, this is the goal of the Lyme diet, in my opinion. Something that most people also know is that stress causes inflammation. If you are constantly stressing over not being able to eat a million and one things, you are creating inflammation in your body, and ‘counteracting’ the Lyme diet. I found that really weighing the benefit of a treatment and my quality of life was important. Just cutting out dairy and gluten was a good enough balance for me to maintain happiness and not being over stressed about what I can/can’t eat. I don’t want to stress over all the things I can’t have. 
 
You can find Sydney here:
Instagram: @surviving.hope
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