As those of you following my Instagram know, this past weekend was my fifth FODMAP re-challenge: a six day affair with sweet potatoes to test my sensitivity to mannitol. To say the re-challenge ‘didn’t go well’ would be a modest understatement – me, now 60 hours post-meal, an abominable ball of trumpeting gas. But even still, lingering in a purgatory of acute bloat and fatigue, encased in my leggings and calling bathroom runs cardio, most of me is grateful for the duress. Having now followed the Low FODMAP Elimination Diet for over four months, living a completely symptom free existence for the last half of them, the stark dichotomy between newfound wellness and a dip back into that once familiar, yet formidable normal feels edifying. Slowly reclaiming my health and body after over a decade of chronic and often debilitating Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), below you’ll find four introspective truths this experience has surfaced.
nope, not pregnant.. just swollen from my toes to my nose (and fatigued AF) after last night’s sweet potato re-challenge 🤦🏻♀️ • after so many weeks of feeling so well, today’s symptoms have triggered a lot of emotion – embarrassment and irritation to name a few (that I have limitations, that my face and fingers and STOMACH are distended and distorted when just a few hours ago they were mine..), but mostly gratitude. gratitude that I’m taking the steps to reclaim my health and my body #DiarrheaDiaries #IrritableBowelSyndrome
1. There is no one-size-fits-all healthy
I’ve chatted about this briefly, but prior to beginning the Low FODMAP diet, I followed a strictly plant based lifestyle for almost seven years. My meals were typically rich in avocados, beans, hummus, lentils, cashews, and yes.. sweet potatoes, unprocessed and life-giving components that should instinctively and intrinsically help us thrive. And while they technically should- rich in macronutrients, fiber, vitamins, plant based proteins, etcetera, etcetera- for me, and for so many of us suffering from IBS, they’ve done exactly the opposite. Also rich in FODMAPS, these foods have caused me chronic diarrhea, fatigue, bloating, distorted by face and my fingers, and left me as a shadow of myself. Just as we’re all unique and individually complex as humans, just as there is no one right way to live.. there is no one right, one-size-fits-all healthy.
2. I’ve gained weight, and that’s more than ok
Since beginning the Low FODMAP diet I’ve gained five pounds – a reality I’m truthfully having some mixed feelings about, but that’s left me altogether giddy. Feeling more well than I have in years, consuming an irritant-free and primarily plant based diet, regularly exercising, moving and shaking, the only rationale is that my meals are finally sticking. After three straight years of chronic diarrhea, regular and solid stools are a pretty miraculous thing, and think what they imply! That what I’m consuming is actually nourishing me; that longterm health is possible.
3. I am a natural runner
Now 8 weeks into half marathon training, I’d like to make a complete addendum to a previous statement: “And while I’ve never been a natural runner (despite a lifetime of willed and calculated speed and grace), my body instead lending itself better to yoga, hiking, dawdling and passive movement, all of me is thrilled to get going”. Training for this half marathon while on the Low FODMAP diet (as opposed to my last four years ago, and all vigorous exercise since), I’ve had more energy, felt stronger, faster, more alive. It wasn’t that I wasn’t a natural runner, but that I was too weak and depleted, too doubled over to vie. That while I thought running was swelling my calves and feet, I was already swollen and it only added to that stress. And so, my addendum: I am a natural runner – certainly not the fastest or most graceful – but a natural runner who enjoys moving, who thrives off the adrenaline, and who has the strength to not only get through a run, but recover from it to begin all over again.
4. Baby steps still move you forward
While this weekend’s sweet potato re-challenge threw me right back into the depths of my IBS – leaving my entire body swollen and me irritated and embarrassed by the state- the trial was progress. As with any obstacle (health related or otherwise) we have the option to let ourselves fall into a cycle of self-pity, helplessness, and complacency, but we also have the option to take action and fight back. I choose the later.