Alissa smiling while holding a quart of strawberries.

The Power of Following Through: What I Learned from Getting Scrappy with My Own Health

digestive health wellness Feb 17, 2019

A few years ago, I was struggling with serious stomach issues. I’ve mentioned this before, but I had seen doctor after doctor without any real answers or relief. It was kind of a mystery. The most painful and frustrating kind of mystery.

Out to dinner one night, eating a salad with olive oil praying my stomach wouldn’t get upset again, Matt’s mom told me about this diet she was on that was supposed to heal your gut. The GAPS diet. This was no ordinary diet. It was incredibly restrictive. I won’t go into the details (if you want to learn more, check out the link below!) but in a nutshell, it consisted of eating only homemade soups, fermented vegetables, and specially prepared meat.

I had nothing to lose. Learning about this diet gave me a beacon of hope. I thought finally, maybe, I would be able to eat without feeling acid creep up into my throat and like there was a burning rock in my stomach. I was desperately hopeful.

Starting this diet was no easy feat, but to add to the difficulty, I barely knew how to cook! Up until this point, I basically lived off Trader Joe’s microwave meals. I was literally going from microwaving mac and cheese to fermenting my own vegetables and making bone broth from an entire chicken.

What am I doing?!

But I was determined. My desire to heal my stomach was greater than my fear of the kitchen. I remember spending hours in Target one night, stocking up on all the kitchen supplies I needed while on the phone with my mom asking, What’s a dutch oven?! What kind of meat thermometer should I get? What’s a cheesecloth? I nervously swiped my credit card, told the closest people in my life my plan, and got started.

During this period of time, I was also the busiest at work that I’d ever been and lived about an hour from my office. That meant that I started cooking dinner some nights at 9 p.m. It didn’t matter and there were no excuses. I made my from-scratch dinners happen no matter what. I made weird, homemade snacks that I brought to social outings. While my friends were drinking beers and eating chips, I was drinking filtered water and snacking on homemade squash fries. During my time on the diet, I didn’t stop myself from taking part in anything socially, but I was always fully devoted to keeping my promise to myself to stick to it.

Although the GAPS diet didn’t ultimately heal my stomach, it led me to the next step that finally did heal me. It introduced me to a holistic way of looking at my health. Doing the work and following through on this crazy diet taught me the importance of doing what you say you’re going to do. I felt a sense of pride in myself that I’d never experienced before.

It was like, dang, I just did something difficult that a lot of people wouldn’t do! How do I know they wouldn’t do it? They told me every time they saw me bring my soup to work in a thermos. And it had to be in a thermos to keep it hot because I learned the microwave would kill the nutrients my body desperately needed. I’m telling you – this diet was intense! As my coworkers would say, “I don’t know how you do it! I could never.” My response was always, “you’d do this too if you were feeling as crappy as me!” I think that’s true. You’re willing to do a lot when you hit rock bottom.

When you keep a promise you made to yourself, it’s an act of self-love because you’re sending the message to yourself that you’re worth it. It builds confidence because you realize how much you’re capable of. You gain trust in your abilities. You learn that you can take on much bigger challenges than you’d ever thought possible before.

As difficult as those days were, I look back on them with fondness. I’m proud of myself for getting scrappy and doing the work to better myself. I lived alone, I was scared, I had little money, I barely knew how to cook. I invested in myself and didn’t give up, no matter how bleak it was. Some nights I would slave for hours over a meal, only to have it make me sick. Those moments made me feel like crumpling to the floor in defeat. And sometimes I did. But then I kept trying. When you’re in a place of desperation, it’s amazing what you can do.

If you want to change something in your life or in yourself, it’s going to take hard work. It’s not going to be comfortable. That’s the point! If you’re doing something different than you’ve ever done, of course it feels uncomfortable. It’s not what you’re used to. But the results, the confidence built, the learning along the way – makes it so, so worth it.

With love,