Health -What I Wish I Had Known
“A quarter-life crisis led me to ask some tough questions and find my best life in the process.”
By Audrey Hardin, LPC
By Audrey Hardin, LPC
The one question that is bound to come up when meeting new people is, “What do you do?” And depending on the day, I’ll share either Professional Image Consultant or Therapist and have them guess the other hats I wear. Consistently the answer I get is “Fitness instructor!”… which is incredibly flattering, but if you really knew me, is also quite laughable.
… because the truth is, I rarely workout.
I consistently get the question, “how do you stay so fit?” -those asking are typically looking for an exercise regimen I adhere to. But I find many are disappointed when they hear that the way I’ve maintained my physique for the past 10 years is my implementation of the 80/20 rule:
The key to weight loss and weight management is 80% diet and 20% exercise …and just like “not all exercise is created equal,” neither are diets.
My relationship with food is different now from the average American, but it hasn’t always been that way. And it took some significant symptoms in my life to wake me up to the harsh realities of how much food can either help or hinder your emotional and physical health.
Two major shifts happened:
when I graduated college I noticed food had such power over me; it became the way I self-soothed. I used it to comfort, celebrate, even to distract…and would be highly agitated if the meal failed to meet my expectations. I realized I was expecting food to meet all of my needs. After yelling at my mom for making a dish for dinner that I didn’t want [YIKES!], I took a serious look in the mirror and then to my Savior to break the chains that bound me to this idol.
The truth He revealed was that only He could meet my needs, provide comfort, and the peace that I so needed and longed for. After that prayer, my entire paradigm shifted and as it did, food faded into the background. It became something I enjoyed but no longer worshipped.
At age 26, I caught a cold that I couldn’t get rid of. I was in a hurry to get well because of an upcoming wedding I was in and a big move to Dallas the next week so I went to the doctor. Two rounds of antibiotics later, I was still sick and seemed to be losing energy by the second.
By the time I moved to Dallas, I was exhausted –sleeping 13-15 hrs a day, never feeling rested, and caught every cold or virus that floated around. A few months later I was diagnosed with “Chronic Fatigue” –a term for an ambiguous autoimmune disease that doctors can’t seem to cure.
Talk about feeling completely helpless and hopeless.
To be honest, after the diagnosis, I fell into a deep depression. It was my own personal quarter-life crisis that looked as if it would last for the rest of my life…that is, until I discovered something huge.
Since the medical model provided me no hope, I spent some of my bed-ridden hours researching alternative medicine in addition to evaluating my medications, diet, etc. and was amazed at what I uncovered.
Here are the 5 Principles that radically changed my diet and gave me my life back!
1. Genetics load the gun but your environment pulls the trigger.
Our bodies were designed to heal themselves but things like our stress levels and exposures to toxins like cleaning supplies, air quality, and makeup [skin is our largest organ], increase our chances of those gene mutations being “turned on” and those illnesses being activated.
For example: I was genetically pre-disposed to have an auto-immune disorder given my mom’s history, but my lifestyle, medications, and diet turned it on.
I now clean with vinegar and essential oils and use safe makeup, skincare, and shampoo.
2. The GUT-BRAIN connection is REAL.
The Gut is considered your “second brain” and there is a bi-directional link between the two –meaning the health of your gut affects your brain and vice versa. Therefore, unhealthy gut or “leaky gut” equals poor mood, attention, and energy just to name a few.
This one was huge for me because of the preceding incidents to my diagnosis.
Through examining my medication history, i.e. the two rounds of antibiotics; steroid injection for my knee pain; plus my antibiotic-type acne medication, I had completely disrupted the gut-brain axis, depleting it of its good microorganisms used in the breaking down of food for nutrient absorption and neurochemicals like Serotonin* that effect mood, attention, and memory.
*Did you know that approximately 95% of Serotonin (the happy chemical) is produced by gut mucosal enterochromaffin cells? Therefore, poor gut health is vastly connected to depression!
3. Medications have side-effects that typically outweigh their benefits.
Due to an early ADHD diagnosis, I took Adderall for almost 10 years, which caused my adrenals to jump into overdrive and eventual burnout —fooling my body into thinking it had energy when it didn’t. Additionally, Minocycline appeared to lessen my acne, but meanwhile it was depleting my good gut bacteria. Once I got off of it, my acne became much worse —(It was just a bandaid). The cortisone steroid shot was a quick fix for my knee pain, but had lasting negative side effects on my gut and immune system. And to go even further, Aspirin, Ibuprofen and Birth control can also contribute to leaky gut syndrome –and I was using all of these without a second thought!
4. Inflammation is the root of all disease.
Cutting out inflammatory foods gave my body a fighting chance.
SUGAR, gluten, dairy, artificial trans-fats (margarine, vegetable oils), processed meats, and corn are all highly inflammatory. Though I spent most of my time eating whole foods instead of fast foods, I did not consider that even though I was cooking, baking, and eating less-refined foods, I wasn’t consciously avoiding the inflammatory ones, which did not allow my body to heal itself.
Just like a broken bone doesn’t begin to repair itself until the inflammation goes down, the same applies to our gut.
5. Eat as nature intended.
We are organic beings, therefore, when we put inorganic, artificial, refined, processed, and/or genetically modified foods or beverages into our bodies, it takes 10x the amount of energy for our bodies to detox from these foreign substances. So, when we consider that our SAD (Standard American Diet) consists of these foods that we’ve eaten since we were born, imagine how EXHAUSTED our bodies are by age 25…then age 50.
Making choices to eat organic, pesticide-free foods set our bodies up for long-term health.
I began to restore my gut health and heal my disease through eating homemade organic bone-broth; tons of organic vegetables like leafy greens; grass-fed and grass-finished beef; pasture-raised eggs; healthy fats like avocado oil and cold-pressed olive oil; wild-caught fish; and fermented foods like sauerkraut and fresh pickles. Here are some helpful resources!
Within a year of implementing these principles and supplementing my diet with nutritional supplements I discovered that my body needed (through an organic acids test), I felt and feel better than I did in my early twenties! -Medication free!
My body is lean, my hair is strong, skin is clear, and people think I work out –a lot!
I do exercise a couple of days a week, and even more before I got sick
…but the real game-changer for me and my health was getting curious about how much my environment and the things I put in my body affect my overall health.
SO many diseases find their root in chronic inflammation (Crohn’s, IBS, Alzheimer Disease, Autoimmune disorders like lupus and chronic fatigue; cancer, diabetes, and the list goes on), which is both scary (many of these numbers are rising) but also empowering now that we know we can do something about it!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I would encourage you to start a Food-Mood diary and track your intake throughout the day with your correlating mood/energy level as well as your digestion process (foods leaving you gassy, acid reflux, etc.).
Second, consider a plan with your doctor to use nutrition and supplements instead of a pharmaceutical drug (many have yet to be studied for long-term effects and those that have, aren’t publicized) so you’re set up for long-term health.