This morning, as usual, I woke up feeling less than stellar. In all honesty, it’s more common that I wake up feeling utterly terrible than relatively decent. So, I took a slow morning. I tried to sleep in a little bit but my mind was going a million miles a minute (as usual). I felt the need to get up and do something. Unfortunately, my body didn’t agree. So I compromised and wrote this blog post about how important I believe it is to listen to your body. A couple days ago, I wrote a post about what your chronically ill friends can teach you. At the top of that list was “listen to your body”, so I wanted to focus on that idea for a bit. If we really pay attention, our bodies are pretty clear about what they need and what they really don’t want. You may not be able to fix all of your problems by simply heeding your body’s warnings, but I promise you, you’ll feel a lot better if you do!
To start off being completely honest, I absolutely love coffee, wine, and Chinese food. However, my body does not. If I could eat these foods everyday without consequence, I probably would. They’re some of my favorite things! However, when I consume these foods, my body revolts and I end up spending more time in bed and/or in the bathroom than actually living my life. I have been extremely guilty of enjoying a decaf latte on occasion (although I haven’t had one in months!), and I certainly miss having a glass of sauvignon blanc in the evenings, but my body has made it clear that it doesn’t handle those things well. So, I’ve made the decision to cut those things out of my life.
Some people with Interstitial Cystitis are not affected by those foods, or any of the same foods that hurt me. Having met a few people with this same condition, it’s amazing how different our symptoms and trigger foods are. For example, one food blogger I follow (but won’t name for the sake of privacy) can eat things such as cranberries and red wine, which are major trigger foods for me, and has only bladder pain symptoms without the urgency and frequency issues that I have. So, while I admire her recipes and restaurant reviews, and can sometimes heed her advice on certain products and ingredients, I can’t always enjoy the foods that work for her. And that’s okay, because I’ve learned the foods that work for me!
While I hate the idea of restriction diets, as they can often lead to disordered eating behavior, other health problems, and major anxiety, sometimes your body simply can’t handle certain foods, and trust me when I say, it will let you know. Similar to having a food intolerance or an allergy, my body reacts relatively severely to certain foods such as alcohol, caffeine, citrus, and soy (in large amounts). Basically any food that is particularly acidic is a no-go for the IC diet. My body even reacts poorly to artificial ingredients such as sweeteners, preservatives, and colors. As a result, I do my best to simply not eat those foods.
I used to panic if these foods were anywhere near me. I would avoid going to certain restaurants with friends or refuse going to dinner parties simply because I didn’t want to be that difficult picky guest. However, these days, I don’t freak out if there is a lemon wedge in my water, if my friends are enjoying a glass of wine, or if I go to a coffee shop and have to order a steamer or a hot chocolate. Instead of focusing on what I can’t have, on what I’m restricted from having, on what I’m missing out on, I try to pay more attention to what I CAN enjoy. Through my restrictions, I have found new opportunities. I have taken up cooking on a more regular basis and developed recipes that not only work with my IC, but are incredibly nutritious and delicious. I have discovered new ingredients to incorporate into my diet that I never would have considered before (hello, winter squashes!). I have challenged myself to come up with unexpected ingredient combinations to make a well balanced meal that I actually enjoy. Honestly, as a result of having to avoid certain foods, I’ve found creativity in the kitchen. Additionally, when it comes to going out with friends, I have realized that I actually prefer to stay sober and can still enjoy the time with my friends. I save money, feel better (no hangovers!), and can be my most genuine self.
Another part of my IC, at least these days, is it has limited my ability to partake in particularly physical activities. I used to be a relatively avid gym-goer, hiker, etc. While I was never the picture of physical fitness person, I was an athlete in my younger days and exercise/physical activity have always been a big part of my life. In the last few months, as my IC has gotten more and more severe, I haven’t had the ability to do physical things as frequently, if at all. Luckily, I have still been able to ride my horse at least on a weekly basis (sometimes more), something that is absolutely vital for my mental health, but even that has had to be reduced in frequency and intensity. On my good days, I make a point to put physical activity (usually riding, running errands, or walking) first because it is something I enjoy and obviously, it’s healthy. However, more often than not, I don’t get to do much. Physical activity is definitely important for the healthy lifestyle, especially for those without a chronic condition, but sometimes your body just says no. For me, that message comes across when just walking around the house makes me dizzy and weak, when I need a nap after cooking a meal, or require recovery just from running errands. All of these things are my body’s way of telling me to slow down, rest, and recover. When all I want to do is go for a nice ride on my horse, explore a new hiking trail, or even just walk the dog, it can be incredibly frustrating when my body shuts you down. However, it’s important to understand that our bodies send us these signals for a reason.
Whether you have a chronic condition, the common cold, a food allergy, or no ailment at all, it’s incredible important to listen to what your body is telling you. If you’ve worked out every day for a week and your body is feeling fatigues, maybe it’s time to take a rest day. If that ice cream, while incredibly delicious, hurts your stomach and screws up your digestion, maybe minimize your intake. Our bodies are absolutely incredible, and are telling us more than we think. It’s vital that we start paying attention to what they are trying to say and giving them what they need. At the same time, it’s important not to restrict ourselves for the sake of our mental and emotional health, because sometimes our minds need something beyond what our bodies do. Ultimately, we would be doing ourselves a favor if we quit paying so much attention to what works best for our friends, our favorite social media influencers, and even our family members, and start listening to the real experts: ourselves.