Category Archives: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

A Day In The Life Of

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Today I thought I give you a little insight into what life is like when preparing for a bodybuilding competition. I knew a few bodybuilders before I decided to do this and knew it would be hard. But oh boy was I not prepared for what I had coming. It is one thing to hear about someone’s struggles and imagining how they feel vs actually feeling it, believe you me.

So here it goes:

6 am I get up for my first session of cardio. Some of my friends have to get up at 3 or 4 am, so I consider myself lucky!

8:30am I will have meal number 1 – oats and lots and lots of egg whites, which I turn into pancakes. As it turns out, I can turn pretty much anything into pancakes. They are bland, but they look like pancakes, so I imagine they taste good.

10:30am time for meal number 2. Food? Again? Well, when you have 6 meals to get through in a day, you have to eat every 2-3 hours. This is quite time consuming. Although eating the exact same things at the same times every day means I can prepare a lot of it over the weekend and save lots of time during the week. And let’s be honest here for a moment: I never struggle to eat… ;-D

1pm – lunch (ah yesss, I was close to starvation)

2pm – gym for a proper weight session. We are talking bench presses, deadlifts, weighted squats and basically just lifting some heavy stuff. I grunt, I swear, I sweat. It is not pretty… But this part is the one I enjoy the most. Every workout counts and I push myself as hard as I can. Leaving the gym after a really good leg workout and barely being able to walk is one of the most satisfying feelings to have. I can’t deny that I feel a sense of disappointment when I wake up the next morning and am not sore ;-D

3pm – meal 4 straight after the gym to replenish my body. Ooh, that one always feels good!

5pm – meal 5. More food. Glorious food.

7pm – my second cardio session for the day. I get to walk through the local parks for an hour with a heavy bag full of water bottles strapped to my back.

9pm – meal 6, my final bit of food before heading to bed.

10pm – lights out! Sleep is such an important part of life. It is necessary for good health, something that I have chosen to ignore in the past. Sleep is also necessary for muscular development and so now I am making it a priority. I work too hard on my physique to jeopardise it with a lack of sleep. Besides, sleep tastes so, so good (I tend to dream of food… haha)

The cardio sessions are designed for maximum fat burn and so I wear multiple layers (3 pairs of long trousers, a thermal shirt, hoodie with the hood up and fleece on top plus a jacket for the session in the park). The layers ensure that I sweat. A lot. We are talking waterfalls running down my back and sweat dripping into my eyes and off my chin. This is one aspect I don’t love about the process, if I am very honest.

So there you go – a day in the life of… me! Living the rock’n’roll lifestyle 😉

I may be missing out on a social life right now, but it will all be so worth it when I step on that stage for Rosa UK.

If you are feeling generous after reading this, you can sponsor me here.

Rosa Who?

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There have been quite a few historically significant Rosa’s and each one of them had a lasting impact. Be it Rosa Luxemburg, Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist and anti-war activist who showed courage and tenacity in the face of adversity. Or Rosa Parks, an African American who refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white man and inspired the American civil rights movement with her action. And Rosa May Billinghurst, a suffragette and women’s rights activist who was born in Lewisham, the beautiful borough in south east London I call home.

In my last post I described some of the struggles I have experienced and how bodybuilding is my way of reclaiming control over my body. I mentioned that in order to get my health back I had to learn to be kind to myself and to forgive. Surprisingly, it has been very easy for me to forgive other people. The boss who put my life in danger, the manager who bullied me, the justice system that failed me and even the man who raped me. The part I am still struggling with is forgiving myself, however. For the choices I have made, for the warning signs I did not see and for not fighting harder. And it is affecting my confidence and ability to trust myself.

So it is no stretch to see why I would select a charitable fund that supports female causes:

Rosa is a charitable fund set up to support initiatives that benefit women and girls in the UK. Because, while many women and girls here do enjoy freedom of choice and the opportunity for success in their lives, that’s simply not true for all. Our vision is of equality and justice for all women and girls in the UK.

Rosa supports projects under four priority areas that underpin their work:

Leadership and Representation

  • More women should hold positions of leadership and decision-making in the UK.
  • Women are hugely under-represented in politics and public life. And women in minorities – such as black and minority ethnic, disabled, and lesbians – are even less likely to have a public voice.
  • This means that the issues that are important to them, such as care provision, reproductive choice and local community resources, are less likely to reach the top of the agenda.
  • Rosa invests in projects that aim to understand how to get rid of the barriers that prevent women from participating in public life and encourage their equal representation and contribution in politics, the economy, the media and social agencies.

Safety

  • All women and girls have the right to live free from violence and the threat of violence.
  • Safety for women in the UK is a huge issue, as crimes of rape, domestic violence, sex trafficking and ‘honour killing’ continue at shockingly high rates. Yet many projects that support women who are at risk or seeking refuge are in funding crisis. Some organisations are being forced to close through lack of funds, leaving vulnerable individuals with even fewer places to turn for support.
  • Rosa invests in projects that are improving safety for women and girls in the UK, and helps raise awareness of the funding crisis to other potential funders.

Health and Wellbeing

  • All women and girls should feel good about themselves – and be able to get the help and healthcare they need.
  • Some of the health issues we’re concerned about include poor body image, low self-esteem, eating disorders, and increased alcohol consumption among young women. And some women are especially susceptible to ill health, poor support services and access to treatment – purely because they come from black and ethnic minority communities.
  • Rosa invests in projects that tackle these issues – from awareness raising projects to support groups and initiatives to reach women and girls from all backgrounds with the information they need to help keep them well.

Economic Justice

  • All women in the UK should have the opportunity for economic stability and success in their lives.
  • More women than ever before are earning now – but usually far less than men, even if they’re doing the same job. Women also lose out when it comes to moving up the career ladder or having flexible working options. Girls from disadvantaged backgrounds find it hardest of all to get ahead.
  • And lack of affordable childcare keeps talented women out of the job market altogether. Rosa invests in projects that will help create a more even playing field of opportunity for women – benefiting individuals, families and employers alike.

 

Why from Bedridden to Bodybuilding?

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Welcome to summer. A week into the warm weather and everyone seems to be complaining it’s too hot. You’ve gotta love London 😉

For me, the hot weather is fantastic. The aim of my cardio workouts is to sweat as much as possible and so I wrap up in several layers, starting with thermal underwear and ending with a hoodie and extra warm fleece. In this weather I am just dripping with sweat. And yes, that’s a good thing – burning more fat to get me ready for the stage in just over 8 weeks.

Last week I gave you a broad overview of my journey ahead. Today I thought I’d tell you a little bit more about who I am and how it came to this. For that, I will have to take you a little bit back in time:
It was in 2010 that I found my energy levels dwindling. Initially it was cause to annoyance rather than concern and I did what I always do – push through. Hard.
In 2013, at the tender age of 31, I suffered a complete burnout and was bedridden for a year. Not much use while unable to get out of bed, I lost my job, ending my corporate career. What got me there was a culmination of life changing episodes including severe stresses at work, working hours in excess of 80 hours per week on an ongoing basis, multiple trauma, physical attacks (all of which were sexually motivated), divorce, rape, burglary, sexual harassment and bullying, cancer in the family.  I could go on, but I will leave it there.
In 2012 I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after experiencing cluster migraines and I was signed off work, 2 weeks at a time, for the whole year. I suffered severe pain all over my body and was chronically exhausted. Every morning I woke up feeling like I had not slept in days, even after sleeping for 16 hours straight. I’d then have to decide whether I would brush my teeth or my hair. I did not have the strength to do both. Simple day to day tasks had become insurmountable.

Previously I had felt unbreakable. Super-human. Slowing down was for other people.
And now here I was. Broken.  

As I mentioned in my last email though, I was not willing to accept living like this for any length of time. For me, this was not living at all. So I started to do research. Initially I could not read for more than 5 minutes at a time, it was too exhausting and the letters on the pages turned into indecipherable dark blobs. I had to learn the hardest of all lessons and the one that would help me the most: accepting where I was right now. That meant accepting that, right now, I could only do as much as I could do. Accepting that rest was ok. Not only that, but it was helpful. Constructive. Productive! I had to learn to stop pushing myself harder and harder, something I’d been very good at. In its place I had to learn to slow down and be kind to myself. Something I had never previously done. And I had to learn to forgive myself. For everything that had happened to me.

I slowly improved and was able to start swimming and later yoga in 2014. Roll on 2016: I am now running my own businesses to empower women and to advise other people who are experiencing signs of burnout. I am in the final weeks of preparation for my first ever bodybuilding competition. I will enter the bikini category which sports a lean but not overly muscular look yet still requires a lot of training and discipline. But more about that at a later stage.

I hope that my journey will inspire someone out there to not give up in the face of adversity. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long that tunnel may be.


He replied, “I’m going through hell!” Said his friend: “Well, keep on going. That is no place to stop!”  ~ John Randall Dunn


Thank you so much for reading, your encouraging emails and support. It means the world to me!

Lots of love
Sarah

Still on my journey from Terribly Tired to Fabulously Fit

 

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It has been quite some time since my last post again and I am still on my journey “from terribly tired to fabulously fit”. Now less tired and focusing on becoming fabulously fit, I have decided to enter a bodybuilding competition. And I am doing it for charity.

Oh yes!

Over the coming weeks and months I will post updates on my journey to get stage ready and hope you will find it entertaining, maybe inspiring. And maybe you can even help.

Today I just want to give you a little overview and will keep it as short as I can. I will get into more detail over subsequent posts. That’s something to look forward to, eh? So let me take you a little back.

It all started as what I call one of my “brain-farts”. Not too long ago, back in 2013, I was very ill and bedridden for the whole year. I was told I would never get much better and should learn to live with my symptoms. But me being as stubborn as I am, I got to thinking “Who are these people to tell me what I am or am not capable of achieving?”
I set out on a mission to get myself healthy again. Doing lots of research and working towards my health every single day, I started to improve. Fast forward to 2015 and I started to go to the gym. It was while I performed the very first ever deadlift of my life that my “brain-fart” occurred: “I know, I’ll compete in a bodybuilding competition!”
Initially I wanted to prove to myself and others that I had gotten my health back. Since starting this journey early in 2015, my motivation has changed though: I am hoping that my journey will somehow encourage others not to give up. Inspire them to keep going no matter what anyone else says. And just to pack that extra punch and make sure that I won’t drop out (as if…) I decided to do this for an amazing charity – Rosa the UK fund for women and girls.
And this is where YOU come in. Seeing the word charity, you probably clutched your wallet tightly, didn’t you? But guess what, while it is great if you are able to sponsor me, there are many other ways you can get involved that will not cost you a penny.

You can help by

  1. Donating to my charity through my fundraising page, obviously 😉
  2. Raising awareness for my campaign by talking about it or sharing it on social media. (Instagram: @frombedriddentobodybuilding)
  3. Sharing your contacts – who do you know who could support my campaign? Maybe someone who works in the media?
  4. Encouraging me – send me a little note of support, like my posts on social media. Anything that shows me someone is watching and wanting me to succeed will help me to keep going.

My competition is on Sunday 18 September. I will post regularly to let you know how you can support me on this quest and to update you on progress 😀

Thank you so much for reading and I hope you will enjoy my posts.

Lots of love
Sarah

Getting my “BOOM!” back

My oh my, it has been nearly a year since my last post. And so very much has changed since then. To think that just a year back I was still plagued by almost permanent fatigue, spending a lot of time lying either in bed or on my sofa to rest. It seems like such a distant past, even though it is really not that long ago.

I never received a diagnosis from my doctor and worked on the assumption that it may be adrenal fatigue. However, considering the severe chronic pain that I also experienced in my muscles and joints, I ticked all the boxes for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / ME.

For those that have been following my blog, you will know that I started my journey in November 2013 when I decided that enough was enough and I was going to do whatever it takes to get my health and my energy back. You see, I have always been quite an active and high energy person. So there was really no alternative for me other than getting my health back. FULLY. And that is exactly what I did.

When the Motivation is right – My Wake-up call

I had rested up for weeks to go to “Power to Succeed“, a free weekend event organised by Elliott Kay, aka The Coach in the Hat. It was a wonderful weekend and there was one exercise he had us do that really changed my life. He invited everyone to stand up, close our eyes and guided us through a meditation. At the end of that 10 minute or so meditation, he asked us to imagine looking at ourselves in the mirror 5 years from now if nothing had changed. What would we say to that person?

And there was one thing that came to mind immediately. And it was the only thing I could think of that I would say to myself in 5 years time if nothing changed – “REST IN PEACE”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have never been suicidal. I love life way too much. But I was no longer living it! And I realised right that second that something MUST change. On that realisation, I broke into violent crying (not the little teary-uppy kind of crying, but the proper snot and tears and uncontrollable sobbing sounds kind of crying). I had to leave the event. I was exhausted. It had become clear that for me, getting my health back was a matter of life or death. Continuing as it was could not be an option. And I was not going to be defeated!

And on to the “BOOM!”

I have always had a bit of a “WHATEVER IT TAKES” kind of attitude. If I really want something, I will not stop until I make it happen. In fact, that is part of what got me ill. However, it is also what got me better.

Over the last year I tried so many different things. Some things worked a little bit, others not at all. But I kept at it relentlessly. I had chosen life and I wanted to live mine again!

Gosh, to think that just one year ago, simple tasks such as washing my hair were unmanageable most days. Now I sometimes head to the gym twice in a day just for the fun of it. I stuck with the yoga, which has been so wonderful for me and am now finally hitting the gym regularly again for strength training as well. I am even thinking to do a Tough Mudder in May 😀

And that, my dear friends, is my “BOOM!”. It is the energy to do all the things I like. The energy to enjoy life and make it a hell of a ride. And finally go back dancing again as well, tearing up that dance floor like there is no tomorrow and with enough energy to get up the next day and do it all over again. Or going to have some fun in a kids playground, like I did in that photo. That was FUN!

Chronic Recovery Centre
Living with “BOOM!”

Conclusion

Whatever you have been told, whatever your situation: DO NOT GIVE UP! The old Henry Ford had a good point:

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t-you’re right

Those that have been told that there is no cure and actually believe it do not take the necessary action to get themselves better and hence they stay in that nightmare that is fatigue. But those who, like me, say “FUCK IT, I know I can do better!” they get better.

So DO WHATEVER IT TAKES and keep moving forward.

My love goes out to everyone out there still battling fatigue. Keep your head up and your eyes on the goal – you will get better again!

Mover And Shaker Vs Helpless Victim

Today I want to write about something that has been on my mind for some time and seems to keep coming up a lot recently in conversations – Victim Thinking. Stay with me, there is a connection to Adrenal Fatigue.

Playing The Victim

Just to be clear, I am talking here about a mindset. I am not trying to blame victims of violent crimes or natural disasters. Although even with those you see some coming out the other end stronger and others who break under the “Why me?” thoughts. I can say that because I have been there. While receiving Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for my PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) I have learned that it was my “Why me?” mindset that enabled those traumatic memories to manifest into PTSD. People with victim thinking are more likely to develop such conditions. And it makes sense why.

I could have taken steps to change my situation. But I did not. Mainly because I was under shock, so you can’t blame me, right? Wrong! Well, kind of wrong. While in the situation I was paralysed with shock and horror. However, had I been more aware and changed the way I think and the way I see things earlier, it would have never gotten to that point. So the earlier you can check yourself and re-educate your mind of how to see situations and take responsibility, the more likely you are to avoid getting into bad situations or suffering from them. By not blaming others and taking responsibility, you are in charge and when you are in charge, you have the power to stand up for yourself and do something about it.

Examples Of Victim-Thinking

Sacrifice

I came across this picture on Facebook today and it was the last straw to make me decide to write about this subject, which is very close to my heart.

The picture describes all those sacrifices women make: Giving up their name, their home, their bodies. But where does it mention that women, too, are thinking humans that make their own decisions? While I agree that one should appreciate their partner and be grateful for them, women are not victims of nature, designed to make all the sacrificing. For the right partner, they may DECIDE to do certain things, but surely you cannot blame your partner for that. And appreciation and gratitude goes both ways. Being in a relationship, both parties give up their previous life, both parties compromise and sacrifice. In many relationships, it is still the man who brings home most of the money,  which seems to be taken for granted. “Oh, but I can’t work as much, because I am bringing up his children!” – Sure, but they are your children too and you both decided to have them (ideally). How about we stop rating who gave up the most and just appreciate each other for everything we do for one another? Just a thought.

I recently had a lengthy conversation about this with two girlfriends. One of them was very big on blaming guys for everything that was wrong in our lives. An ex-boyfriend of hers had “wasted her time” by staying in a relationship with her for two more years after he already knew (so she says) that it was not working. How dare he? What a horrible individual he was…! No thought was wasted on maybe he was confused? Maybe he did not know for a fact that things are not working out? Maybe he just feared that it may not? Maybe he was clinging on to a failing relationship because he loved her and did not want to accept that the relationship was just not working out?

It may seem easy to blame someone else for our pain. And maybe it is. In the short term. Long term it is very detrimental to our lives and health. When I first came to London, I did so for my ex-husband. See what I did there? I did something for him. And this is how easily it becomes his responsibility. And when things started to become bumpy, I started to despise him for making me give up my home and come all this way to a foreign country living in a city that I hated with every fibre of my being. Those feelings were eating me up from the inside and were a terrible strain on our marriage which did eventually break down. I have been divorced for almost 4 years now.

We were seeing a couple councillor to try and patch things up at the time and she was the first person who put the mirror up in front of me and challenged that thinking. She kept telling me that it was I who has made that decision, who packed up my things and moved here. I remember thinking “How bloody dare she?” and it was not until much later that what she said started to sink in. The funny thing was, once it did, once I took responsibility for my decision to move to London, the hate in my heart dissolved and I felt so much lighter and happier right away. And not only that, with the hate-cap off, I started to see London for what it was – the most amazing city in the world! I fell deeply in love and am now so happy that I did make the decision, 9 years ago, to take a leap of faith and come here. Rather than my greatest failure, moving to another country now became one of my biggest successes which left me feeling very empowered and ready to take on the world. You see how a little shift in thinking can change your perspective on life as a whole.

Society at large supports a victim mentality. One of the best examples is obesity:

  • Mannequins in shop windows should now be fat too, because it is offensive that they sport a healthier weight than the average person. Right, why should be take responsibility for our health and reduce weight when we can just fatten up our surroundings to make ourselves feel better.
  • Scientists have found a fat-gene – halleluja! It is not your fault, it is genetic. Funny then that when you look at obese families, their pet tends to be fat, too. And I am pretty sure that their dog is not actually related to them. In fact, I would even argue that most of us have the “fat gene” as part of natural selection. Think about it, those best able to store fat would have been the individuals most likely to survive during difficult times 200,000 years ago. Yet not everyone is fat today. Maybe some of us just take responsibility for their health. Now, don’t get me wrong. Weight issues are complex and often there are underlying health issues. In fact, I think there are always underlying health issues, because a healthy body does not store excess fat. Excess fat in itself is a symptom. But taking charge of your health certainly goes a long way in combating weight issues.

Typical Characteristics of Victims

There is a nice little article in the Huffington Post: Do You Have ‘Victim Mentality’? What To Do About It. In this article the author describes a few characteristics of those with victim thinking:

    • People who are victims usually don’t see that the only thing in common between all the people and situations they think they have been victimized by is themselves.
    • Victims usually are people you can’t depend on, because they deny responsibility for their actions. They are quick to blame other people and situations for anything that doesn’t work in their lives.
    • Victims don’t have resilience, which is the ability to quickly bounce back after being knocked down.
    • Victims generally are passive.
    • Victims are usually angry at the people or events they think have “done them wrong,” and underneath the feeling of anger is almost always the feeling of powerlessness.
    • Successful people are rarely victims. One might be able to be a victim and still make money and have great relationships in rare cases, but usually it would be difficult for victims to be successful. To be successful you need to learn from your mistakes and try again. Victims are, by definition, people who do not acknowledge responsibility for their actions and who blame outside forces.

If it’s never our fault, we can’t take responsibility for it. If we can’t take responsibility for it, we’ll always be its victim. (Richard Bach)

Helplessness And Adrenal Fatigue

Being in charge is important for adrenal health. In fact, researchers have found in experiments that rendering an animal trapped and helpless is one of the most rapid ways to deplete its adrenals. Being in charge does not mean that you should do everything yourself, accept and ask for help. This is not about tasks. It is about the way you think and feel.

In Dr Wilson’s book on Adrenal Fatigue (Adrenal Fatigue – The 21st Century Stress Syndrome) he says:

“The particular kind of rest you need when you have adrenal fatigue comes not so much from lying down, but from standing up for yourself, and from removing or minimizing the harmful stresses in your life. […] because a sense of powerlessness or helplessness is the most debilitating and stressinducing emotion there is.”

Self-Empowerment

Can you see yourself in anything I have written about? Do you recognise thought patterns with which you victimise yourself? I have found 3 questions to be especially useful in taking responsibility for your part and changing a “victim-memory” into one of responsibility for your own life. So when you think back and you think of a person or situation which you have blamed for unhappiness or bad things happening to you, try and ponder on these 3 questions for a little while. And do this a few times. See if they change things for you.

  1. What was your part in that situation / how did you contribute to it?
  2. How did the situation serve you?
  3. If a person was involved, why would that person deserve your forgiveness now?

I realise that for some things it will be difficult to think about how it served you. But really try and come up with something. If you really make an effort to find something, anything, that may have been beneficial about the situation for you, you will be surprised by what comes up. And how much better you will feel after. Taking responsibility and being accountable for your own life is the most empowering thing you can do for yourself – and your adrenal glands! 😉

What’s Lurking In The Breadbox? The Impact Of Food Intolerances

Now a kitty in the breadbox is pretty cute, apart from leaving hair all over you bread. But what if it is not a cute furry animal lurking in there but rather something that makes you ill without you even knowing it?

As a nutrition fanatic, I have started to cut out milk about 6 years ago. I go through phases of being religiously strict to much more lenient. Either way, I have dramatically limited my intake of cow’s milk and replaced it with a mix of mainly soya and almond milk. A few years ago, I did also go through a time when I cut out wheat and therefore gluten completely for an extended period of time before reintroducing it in much smaller quantities, only having wheat gluten once a week or so rather than several times a day. But over the years I slipped back into old habits and went back to enjoying bread and pasta, with the knowledge of food intolerances conveniently moving to the back of my memory.

Now battling with Adrenal Fatigue, I am now coming across this subject again repeatedly. Allergies and hypersensitivity to food can play a vital role in overcoming Adrenal Fatigue. As I have had several symptoms that I did not immediately relate to AF, such as having the worst skin of my life with more pimples in my face than I had throughout puberty,w hich makes my face look like a pizza, as well as the re-appearance of the eczema that I experienced for a short period of time as a teenager. So when reading about how to overcome AF and being reminded of food intolerances, I took another look at my current diet.

Adrenal Fatigue And Food Allergies / Intolerances

According to the charity Allergy UK up to 45% of the population in the UK suffers from food hypersensitivity. But what has that to do with your adrenals?

Well, when you have an allergic reaction or when you are hypersensitive to a food, your body will release histamine or other pro-inflammatory substances. As cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands, is a very strong anti-inflammatory, your adrenal glands react to the production of pro-inflammatory substances by producing more cortisol to take care of the inflammation.

And the effect of that is a double edged sword:

a) If you have food intolerances, the constant inflammation counter of the adrenal glands can cause them to fatigue, as they are continuously producing higher amounts of cortisol to counter act the inflammation that would be caused by the intolerance or allergy.

b) If you suffer from Adrenal Fatigue, you will be more susceptible to food intolerances, as your adrenal glands will no longer be able to counter act inflammatory reactions. Therefore it may seem that you have more allergies or intolerances than you had before or that existing allergies have become worse.

You see this is a viscous cycle. Intolerances and allergies deplete the adrenal glands and fatigued adrenal glands can worsen the effect of food allergies and intolerances. So if you think you are suffering from some degree of Adrenal Fatigue already, it is time to identify if you have any hypersensitivities and eliminate those foods from your diet. Pronto.

Allergy Vs Intolerance – What’s The Difference?

The main difference between the two is that an allergy is an immune reaction whereas intolerance is a digestive reactions.

In food allergies, a certain protein in the food you are eating is seen by the body as dangerous and antibodies are sent out to defend the body from this intrusion. The allergic reaction to the food is usually immediate or occurs within a very short time of eating the food, while the amount you ate does not seem to make much of a difference. This means that if you are allergic to peanuts, it does not matter whether you eat half a peanut or a bag full. Reactions are usually more severe than those of intolerances and can even be deadly.

Food intolerance is more chronic, less acute, less obvious in its presentation, and often more difficult to diagnose than a food allergy.The multiple causes for food intolerance include:

  • Absence of an enzyme needed to fully digest a food. Lactose intolerance is a common example.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome. This chronic condition can cause cramping, constipation and diarrhea.
  • Food poisoning. Toxins such as bacteria in spoiled food can cause severe digestive symptoms.
  • Sensitivity to food additives. For example, sulfites used to preserve dried fruit, canned goods and wine can trigger asthma attacks in sensitive people.
  • Recurring stress or psychological factors. Sometimes the mere thought of a food may make you sick. The reason is not fully understood.
  • Celiac disease. Celiac disease has some features of a true food allergy because it does involve the immune system. However, symptoms are mostly gastrointestinal, and people with celiac disease are not at risk of anaphylaxis. This chronic digestive condition is triggered by eating gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains.

The reaction to eating a food you are sensitive to can vary in severity, onset and depend on the amount you have eaten. There can be anything up to 3 days delay between eating a food you are intolerant to and having a reaction to it.

Symptoms Of Food Intolerances

The symptoms vary from person to person and depending on the food you are intolerant to. The symptoms often seem so unrelated to what you have eaten, it makes it more difficult to put one and one together and blame it on the food you ate. Below is a list of common symptoms as listed by Allergy UK:

  • Abdominal pains
  • Aches and pains
  • Acid reflux
  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Autism
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Diarrhoea
  • Eczema
  • Fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • M.E.
  • Migraine
  • Nausea
  • Rashes
  • Rhinitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Skin problems
  • Stomach cramps
  • Tension
  • Urticaria (hives)
  • Weight loss
  • Wheezing

Weight gain is another symptom that was not listed by Allergy UK.

Conclusion

I have suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for about 10 years. During my time of optimal health, that disappeared, even though the doctor told me there was no cure for it. My IBS always used to be worse during times of heightened stress. I suppose during my optimum health, firstly I had dramatically reduced foods that I knew irritated my gut (in my case milk and gluten) and secondly I really was not very stressed. All the sports and especially the running I was doing was my form of meditation. It cleared my mind and calmed me down.

I have now cut out the milk and gluten again and have been particularly strict with the gluten.

It is a good idea to try this out and cut certain foods out for a period of time, preferably at least 2 weeks. This then gives you the opportunity to observe the reaction more clearly when you reintroduce that food as a trial. When I have milk, I notice that my belly bloats up to such a point that I look pregnant and I have painful cramps and a whole host of digestive discomfort. Since I have stopped eating gluten, my skin has improved significantly. The pimples in my face have started to heal while no new ones have appeared and the eczema is slowly healing off. When I do have wheat gluten, I notice that my heart starts racing within an hour of eating it and then the headache comes along with a significant dip in energy levels, which last for up to two days. With all the alternatives you can get out there, it really is not worth the trouble for me.

I think when it comes to intolerances, it is important to remember that cutting them out during times of illness and heightened stress is beneficial. This does not, however, mean that we can never reintroduce those foods. As mentioned, I used to be gluten free for a long time and then re-introduced the wheat with no problems. I did not consume as much gluten as I had previousy and as my body was at optimum health, I could handle small amounts of the food irritants. It is when our body is dealing with other issues that those become a pain. Literally. 

Your Body Hears Everything Your Mind Says – The Power of Positive Thinking

Thank you The-Optimism-Revolution for the image

Finding out about Adrenal Fatigue has been a revelation for me. Just knowing what the hell is wrong with me has given me the opportunity to improve. Just from knowing. It has put me back in charge! Because knowing has allowed me to take a long, hard look at myself and look at what I can do better to get better. And as I mentioned yesterday, changing the way I think was the most important part for me. 

For example, before I knew about adrenal fatigue I would beat myself up when I slept until 9am. Because I thought I am such a lazy cow, sleeping through half the day and if only I wasn’t so fucking lazy and would get my arse out of bed at a normal time, I would actually get stuff done. And then I felt so tired!!! Can you imagine waking up with that mind chatter? It makes me tired just thinking about it. Huh, it just dawned on me where that saying has come from…

When I understood how important sleep is for Adrenal Fatigue and that there is some adrenal magic happening especially in the morning hours of 7-9, my thinking was now very different. If I sleep until 9 am, I have an internal celebration going on – Woohoo, well done! Only just woke up and already done some important healing work for my adrenals. Oh yeah, I rock! And I get up feeling a lot better about myself and as a result of it, feeling a lot more energetic as well.

I gave you some examples of where I have already changed my thinking or reframed the self-talk to become more positive. Negative thoughts are poison. Because as the title says: Your body hears everything your mind says. So what? Well, if you have negative thoughts, they are stressful. And if you think stressful thoughts, your body goes into a stress response. And that has a whole host of negative effects on you. Especially if you are suffering from Adrenal Fatigue. As you just keep feeding the monster that is causing the problem to begin with.

“Only Perfect Is Good Enough” Vs. “Perfectly Good Enough”

I recently came across a wonderful article on the Huffington Post on perfectionism. I found it interesting because, well, I suppose I have to admit that I am a bit of a perfectionist myself. Everyone always used to tell me that I am, but I have spent many years denying it. Because in my head, perfectionists are the ones that do things perfectly. Whereas I never quite got there. Try as hard as I may, I always fell somewhat short of getting it just right. But of course that is exactly it with perfectionists. No matter how well you are doing, you never give yourself any credit because instead of seeing what went well, all you can seem to see is where it could have been that little bit better.

Another good example is my approach to exercise. How much exercise is too much very much depends on your fitness level. Going for a half an hour run can be barely achievable for some, especially if they have never run before. For me it used to be nothing. A half hour run is what I did when I had no time for a real workout. But of course now I cannot do that any more. And running for only 15 minutes seemed like failure to me. But the more I felt like failing at my workouts, the more fatigued I had felt. Because my body was listening! And as I said in my previous post Working Hard For Your Health – Not A Good Idea: Overdoing it will result in you doing nothing. And doing something is a hell of a lot better than doing nothing!

If you are interested, I would recommend reading the Huffington Post article on perfectionism, which you can find here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/06/why-perfectionism-is-ruin_n_4212069.html?&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000070

Say A Great Big “Fuck It” To Perfectionism

I did mention that I like to swear. But actually, in this case, I am merely using a quote. One of the best things I have read in a long time was “F**ck It” by John C. Parkin. The idea behind the book is that if we stop attaching meaning to things, life gets so much easier. In the words of Hamlet:

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

I have been wanting to start a blog for weeks before I actually did it. I was so worried about getting it right, about finding the right subject to write about and what if I was not writing well? But then I thought What is the worst thing that could happen? That nobody reads the blog? Maybe. And then I read another blogger saying If you enjoy writing it, your blog is already a success. So I decided FUCK IT! I am just going to do it. And now I am and the world has not come to an end. In fact, I do enjoy writing my blog.

Can you imagine if you said Fuck It to all the things that are holding you back? If you felt the fear and did it anyway? You would be UNSTOPPABLE!!! Imagine if you said Fuck It to everything that is bothering you. How much more mindspace would you have if you did not have to worry about it any more? Your husband leaves his socks in the sink all the time? Every time you get annoyed about it, you go through a stress response. The cost of that is paid only by you. Imagine if you could just say fuck it and get on with life. So what there are socks in the sink? In the great scheme of things, what does it really matter? I mean REALLY? Bigger picture, people.

Look at me talking… Truth is, I read the book about a year ago and I am obviously still not quite there. It is a work in progress. But isn’t everything? And every improvement is a success. Instead of trying to make today PERFECT, why not try to just make today better than yesterday. And if you do that every day, you get a little further every time.

If you want to read more about saying Fuck It and learn how to do it and where to apply it, read the book or have a look at John’s Fuck It website http://www.thefuckitlife.com/

 

I like that little story of the old Cherokee and the two wolves. The good thing is that if you keep feeding the good wolf, not only will you starve out the bad one, but as the good one gets bigger and stronger, it will fight the bad one for you and before you know it the good one will be there to respond before the bad one gets there. And in the meantime it can harm to just tell the bad wolf to go fuck himself!

Overcoming Adrenal Fatigue

I mentioned yesterday that Monday was a rest day. Today was not active either, hence the late post. I don’t suppose you noticed what I did with my wording here? Instead of saying that Monday was a bad day, I said it was a rest day. And this is how I have decided to see it now. I have spent most of today resting also. It is dawning on me that I may have overdone it just a tad last week. I probably got a little excited when I started to feel better, you see.

For your adrenal glands to recover from Adrenal Fatigue, there are many factors to consider. Below I have outlined a few tips and my experiences with those. As you might notice, for me it is mainly in the head. I mentioned before that I used to follow a very healthy diet and I have been trying to exercise ever since I came back from abroad 4 years ago, but that did not work. So what is it then?

The Good And The Bad

It is very important to know what is good for you and what is not. And it is very useful to write those things down. Make a list of everything that is GOOD FOR YOU and everything that is BAD FOR YOU. Select the top 3 for each out of that list and come up with an action plan to ensure you get more of what is good for you and reduce exposure of the things that are bad for you. I suggest the top 3 as a starting point. Rome was not built in a day. Improve on the top 3, then move on to the next top 3.

Jayne Morris, the amazing coach I have mentioned before, refers to these “bad for you” things as the Energy Vampires, because they literally suck the energy right out of you. When creating your action plan on your top 3 Energy Vampires, consider that you have 3 choices:

1. Change The Situation

Note that it is the situation you change. You cannot EVER change another person. If it is a particular situation that costs you your energy, change it. If it is a person, you may have to reconsider the relationship you have with that person.

Changing a situation can be simple. If the ever dripping tap does your head in, just call someone to fix it. If you are always fighting with your flatmates about cleaning chores, hire a cleaner. I recently did. Not because I cannot do the cleaning, but because I don’t mind cleaning but get super upset when cleaning up after others. So it is well worth the money. Think about it this way: Rather than wasting £20 or £30 on something that you can easily do yourself, you are investing that money in a harmonic home life. That is well worth the money, I’d say. And another beautiful  re-framing example.

2. Change yourself to adapt to the situation

While you cannot change another person, you CAN change yourself. In fact, YOU are the only person you can ever change. The changes you can make are usually straight forward (in theory):

If a poor diet robs your energy – eat more healthily. While I had a pretty good diet, I had some really odd cravings that I had been giving in to more and more. Mainly for very fatty, salty and sweet foods. I ate things that I would have never previously eaten, such as a meal at a self-proclaimed Burger Royalty chain. I am not proud of it and needless to say, it did not make me feel better. So being reminded of good nutrition was very useful and I went back to a better diet to help control blood sugar levels.  I also had a little reminder of that food allergies and intolerances can do to your body and those become more prevalent during times of fatigue or stress. For example, I am usually ok to eat wheat and gluten. I am German after all, I come from the country of bread! But whenever I am ill or very stressed, my body does not seem to handle wheat very well and I serve myself best by swapping normal bread for rye and pasta for brown rice during those times. That, of course, applies right now.

One thing that I found the most impactful was to drink salted water. I know it does not sound very nice, but tired adrenals love sodium and so every morning I drink about half a litre of salted water before even getting out of bed. When I feel a dip during the day, I have another glass and usually feel a little lift shortly after.

Another thing to consider are supplements. I am taking a high quality multi, high strength Vitamin C (adrenal glands’ best friend) and an omega mix. But why? Well, when your body is going through stress, your metabolism speeds up and your body burns through nutrition at a much higher rate. That is why a nutritious diet is so very important as well.

If the way you see yourself or others causes problems – change your thinking (for example through reframing). This was a biggy for me. But I am changing my thinking every day and that helps. You have already witnessed a re-frame in this blog when I mentioned in the beginning that I have decided to refer to last Monday as a rest day rather than a bad day. And I had another one today when I mentioned to an acquaintance today that I am “nurturing my adrenals back to health” when only a month ago I would have said that I am “kicking them back into gear”.

If your hectic lifestyle is at fault – schedule more time to relax. I started off in the first week by meditating for 20 minutes every morning. Unfortunately that has fallen by the roadside again, but I truly believe that it had a big part in why my second week was so darn good. Even just belly breathing for 10 minutes will bring down your heart rate and is a good way to relax. In fact, belly breathing has so many benefits, that I have just decided to dedicate a whole post on it in the near future.

If you do meditate, using a mantra or affirmation can be very useful. I made up my own to suit my history with Post Traumatic Stress: I said “I am safe” on the in-breath and “I let go of the past” on the out-breath. The theory in my head was that I am breathing in more of feeling save and breathing out the bad memories.

Other useful changes to your lifestyle is to go to bed earlier. I really noticed a difference when I was in bed by 10:30 rather than past 11, another thing that has slipped again in recent days. Try to be asleep before 11 and sleep in as often as you can. And do not underestimate the power of rest. When you feel tired, have a little lie down or power nap. Lying down for just 15-30 minutes will be more effective than sitting for the same amount of time (unless you meditate)

Exercise is also an important part, but as described in my post Working Hard For Your Health – Not A Good Idea, keep it fun, light and DO NOT PUSH YOURSELF.

3. Leave the situation

This is something that luckily I started before knowing I suffered from Adrenal Fatigue. Over years, I had tried to improve my working life by making changes. To the jobs at hand, to the people around me. But of course you cannot change others. And feelings of helplessness are killers for your adrenal glands, so eventually I decided to leave. And I feel it was the right decision for me.

By far the most difficult to get my head around are relationships though. Relatives, friends, colleagues… What if you used to be really good friends with someone? But lately, every time you see that person you come away feeling bad? For me, there have been a few people that I have slowed the contact with. It is not that I no longer like them or am no longer their friend. It is more about accepting that the friendship has changed and instead of fighting to keep what you had, you embrace a new type of friendship. While I did cut some of my old friends out of my life (not aggressively, but rather just by stopping to pursue the friendship), I have managed to keep most of them just by re-defining that friendship. This is not easy, but possible. And bear in mind that the most important thing in your life is YOU! And when you feel good and healthy, you can contribute so much more to a healthy, mutually beneficial friendship.

Why not try out some of those tips? Which ones work best for you? Let me know in the comments. And if you have questions, I will gladly respond.

 

A Bad Day Allows Time to Consciously Appreciate The Good Ones

Yesterday I missed publishing my blogpost. I already had an idea of what I wanted to write about. In fact, when I write a post, I usually have the idea for the next 3 or 4 which I briefly outline to myself in a few bullet points. That allows me to keep some kind of flow going between posts. At least that is what I aim to achieve.

So yesterday’s blogpost was outlined. I already had the idea. I just needed to write it. But yesterday was a bad day . I only managed to drag myself out of bed around 11am and spent the rest of the day on the sofa or eating on the sofa. Adrenal rest days are characterized by cravings, insatiable hunger and lots and lots of eating all day long.

Where did the day go? What did I do all day? Apart from eating… Well, mainly I spent the day staring into space. I was back to being so desperately tired, I could not even be bothered to sit up straight and type a post for my blog. It just seemed too much to ask of me or anyone who feels that way. And I did have a little “here we go again” thought creep into my mind. But I took a long hard look at that “thought gremlin”. Do you know “thought gremlins”? Those little lying fuckers that tell you all the shit you don’t need to hear, like you are useless, you cannot achieve something or you are not good enough.

Since I was not going to do anything but sit on my arse all day, I decided to reflect on the last couple of weeks since I found out about Adrenal Fatigue and the improvements I have made since then to help my adrenals back to good health. And immediately I did not feel bad about being so “lazy” any more. Because for one, I was being quite productive by thinking about all the good stuff that has been happening. And I realised that things have improved so dramatically over the last two weeks. I now had one day of lying around incapable of doing anything, yes, but after I had spent two full days over the weekend helping to facilitate training sessions and having spent a full day working on various things on Friday. Three full days in a row. How amazing is that? I have not managed to do that for about a year!!!

I would not even call yesterday a set back. Just a logical conclusion – a day of necessary recharge. My adrenals are getting noticeably better. And going from having a productive hour 2-3 times a week to 3 full days of doing things, being active and productive and after having hit the gym 3 times as well last week, I think that is quite an achievement.

Yes, yesterday was not a good day. I was tired. I could not think. I just wanted to sleep all day. But I am no longer hopeless. No longer accepting that this may just be how it is now, this is what life has become. Having those thoughts bashes your adrenals even more and feelings of being helpless and hopeless.

So my top tip to anyone who suffers from Adrenal Fatigue is: Be conscious of the good times and know that those can become permanent again. But not over night. So cherish them when they come along and be conscious and grateful for them when the bad times come knocking again. Cut yourself some slack. You won’t go back from 0-100 in a day. But while acceleration may be slow, it is also steady. When I started two weeks ago, I got a productive morning followed by a day in bed. But wow, I had a whole morning of feeling awake. Then last week, two weeks into the changes I have made, I had 3 whole days.

Yesterday’s bad day was not a reason to be distraught. It was a reason to celebrate. I had 3 full days. And I am feeling really good today. So after 3 days I needed 1 day rest. So what? Soon I will get 4 days and 1 day rest. Eventually I will only need half a day rest. And over time I will be able to do more and more without feeling exhausted while my body will be able to recover in shorter periods of time.

One thing is for sure, I will now always make time and space in my schedule to rest and recharge, even though one day I won’t feel the need for it any more.