By Amie Valpone
My journey to health hasn’t been an easy one. I have struggled with chronic illness and pain from Lyme disease, Hypothyroidism, C-diff colitis, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), chronic candida, heavy metal toxicity, mold toxicity, adrenal fatigue, leaky gut, and so much more for over a decade. Despite the challenges of being chronically ill, this struggle has taught me a lot about myself and led me to my passion of helping others heal through detoxing their food and environment through lifestyle changes.
In my early 20s I was living and working my dream job at VOGUE Magazine in Manhattan. I was successful in many areas of my life, but I paid little attention to my health (I never ate organic, used things like Splenda and Crystal Lite, which I thought were healthy) and it took a toll. I developed severe sensitivities to gluten, dairy, soy, corn and many other foods I had once enjoyed. I was living with daily chronic pain, landed on disability from my job and was given 24 hours to live with C-diff colitis- that’s when I realized I needed to make major changes in my life. Over the next few years I visited hundreds-yes hundreds- of doctors including a week at Mayo Clinic and tried countless tests and treatments to figure out what was wrong with my poor, little body. Nothing seemed to work and every doctor guessed something different was wrong with me. After two bone marrow biopsies, a muscle biopsy, countless MRI’s, CT Scans, X-Rays, colonoscopies, endoscopies, 20 vials of blood being drawn every other week and so much more beyond your imagination, I decided to try something new. I met with an Integrative/Functional MD and it changed my life. I started to learn about how to get to the root cause of my health issues and heal my symptoms by detoxing not only my diet, but my entire life.
Making Big Changes
My chronic illness was wreaking havoc on my little 25 year old body and severely affecting my quality of life. My Integrative MD showed me how to get to the root cause of my pain instead of covering up the symptoms with band-aids (like Western medicine did for me). This is what my body needed to help me heal. I quit my corporate job, cut out all gluten, dairy, refined-sugar and soy from my diet because I couldn’t digest any of those foods without getting sick. I switched to eating organic to minimize my intake of pesticides and GMOs (and realized it wasn’t so hard to do-organic food is everywhere in Manhattan-it’s not cheap but it can be done and I traded shopping for expensive clothes and vacations for quality food to nourish my body). I discovered amazing and super convenient brands like Earthbound Farm, who make to-go salad bowls and easy prepped salad kits for my busy lifestyle. I ditched old beauty products that were full of chemicals like parabens. I started reading every detox book I could get my hands on, went back to school to study Integrative Nutrition and started my website TheHealthyApple.com where I post weekly ‘clean eating’ recipes and talk about how I’ve been healing along with my struggles of being a 30 something woman living in Manhattan without take-out, alcohol and processed foods along the way.
My symptoms decreased, and after years of struggling, there was finally light in my life again. As my career and website grew with followers all over the world relating to my issues and journey, I wanted to do as much as I could and say yes to everything. Great things were happening, but I was still putting a lot of stress on myself. That’s when I started to incorporate more mindfulness into my life. I realized that despite all the ways I had improved my external environment, there were still internal issues holding me back. I was often stressed about work and despite my healthy lifestyle, there was something missing. It took me to hit rock bottom with chronic pain, to surrender everything and learn how to get quiet with myself, sit in stillness and start to really get to know myself-after a decade of trauma, disability, and more treatments that you can even imagine.
Mind and Body Connection
Around this time I started getting in touch with my mind-body connection. I realized that amongst all the healthy steps I had taken, I wasn’t truly checking in with myself. Resurgence of some of my symptoms made me realize what I really needed was to slow down, listen to myself, and stop trying to do everything. I started incorporating more meditation and yoga in to my life. I spent time thinking about why I felt the need to do it all. And I gave my body a lot of credit for hanging in there with me through so many punches, needles and biopsies. I started to forgive others and most of all, forgive myself and my body for all it had been through with chronic illness.
What’s so miraculous about the mind-body connection is that when we slow down and take time to listen to our body, the answers come to us naturally. Instead of seeking peace with our physical body through dieting or a Pilates class, we can let go and just BE. Eating clean and exercise are important (I eat organic and go for walks in Central Park), but I’ve finally realized at the ripe age of 32 that inner peace and self-connection are paramount! Without that, I learned everything else will fall a little flat. Strengthening the mind-body connection allows us to act from a place of “What’s right for MY body?” instead of what’s the best superfood/workout/supplement etc. to make me look good? The latter question, which is all about our external appearance and true happiness, I’ve learned isn’t found outside of us via clothes, vacations, men, job success, etc.-it’s found inside. With so much health information out there in magazines, TV and social media, getting quiet with ourselves and tuning into who we really are allows us separate the fads from what we really need.
The journey to health can be tough. There is so much information out there, and it takes time to learn what you need to find true happiness inside of yourself. Start with changes you KNOW are good – more whole foods, less processed foods, more movement, less TV, more love, less judgment. Pay attention to how you feel, be receptive to change. Be kind to yourself and go slow. Know that if you take it one step at a time, you’ll get to where you want to be. My cookbook that focuses on over 200 vegetarian recipes free of gluten, dairy, soy, refined sugar and eggs as well as how to detox toxins from your food, your beauty products and your food, called Eating Clean: Detox, Fight Inflammation, Reset Your Body & Get to The Root Cause of Illness will be in stores nationwide March 8, 2016. Head on over to TheHealthyApple.com to say hello.
Sending you all healing hugs and lots of love from NYC, Amie. xox
Editor’s Note: Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in this post is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.
Amie Valpone, HHC, AADP is the Editor-in-Chief of www.TheHealthyApple.com; she is a Manhattan based Celebrity Chef, Culinary Nutritionist, Professional Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Writer and Motivational Speaker specializing in simple gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free ‘Clean’ recipes. Visit Amie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and Pinterest @TheHealthyApple.