Sunday, September 18, 2011

Carrot Cream Soda, A Diagnosis, and Listening to My Symptoms

Before I share my favorite new drink with you, I need to give a giant thanks to all of you who read my last post, commented, and e-mailed. The response was overwhelming, and knowing how much support I have has been immensely helpful. More than that, knowing how many of you are dealing with similar issues gave me the encouragement I needed to get back to eating the way I should be. I've spent the last three months not knowing where my motivation went, and feeling simply unwilling to follow my strict diet. Not surprisingly, my health and mood slipped back to where I was when I first moved to Seattle a year ago. But since my last post on Tuesday, I've followed my eating plan, and while I don't feel perfect, I feel much better and know I'm headed back in the right direction.

Reading all of your words reminded me that my symptoms are not my body's way of turning against me. Rather, they're its way of trying to wake me up to the life I'm missing. You see, I have a tendency to believe that no matter what I do, it's not enough. To compare myself with others and think I'm always a step behind. So I throw balls up in the air and I start to juggle. Three, four, five, six...before you know it, I'm stuck in one spot, terrified to move or look down for fear all of the balls will tumble to the ground. My arms begin to ache and I get a crick in my neck, but I just keep juggling. Instead of choosing which balls are the most important and letting the others drop, I continue to juggle, all the while secretly hoping to trip and fall, leaving every single ball behind. This is how I felt when I left New York (which was almost exactly a year ago), and in many ways I literally did drop all of my balls. I left everything I knew and started fresh.

This time, I'm not going to do that. I've made a home and a life here that I love, and all of those balls in the air? They kick ass. One ball is a cookbook. Another is a master's degree in nutrition. A third is this blog. There's one for The Gluten and Allergen Free Expo in Dallas October 1st-2nd, where I'll be giving a talk on food and inflammation (you think I have enough personal experience with that?!). Yep, I'm pretty psyched about all of the balls up there. This time I'm determined to keep juggling. And yet, there are a few balls scattered on the ground by my feet. My health, my friends, my yoga practice, The Assistant. Not gone, but they need a little help getting back in the air. When I get stressed, I focus on what's in front of me to the detriment of everything else. I've been ignoring the warning signs, the headaches and fatigue, the weight gain, the frustration I can feel from my friends. The ever increasing sense of panic, the sense that I'm missing the point. Missing out on what life is really about.

Last week, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's, an autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid gland. My cookbook co-author, Brittany, was recently diagnosed and urged me to get tested. To my surprise (although not hers), my tests came back positive. I still have some more bloodwork to get back, another appointment with my doctor, and a lot of research to do so that I know what I'm dealing with. But here's what I'm taking away from all of this: I haven't been taking care of myself. 

And not just in the last few months, but for a long time. For as long as I can remember really. I fake it and I put on a good front. Occasionally, I get in a groove and handle everything really well. But most of the time, I'm just plain stressed out and anxious. My massage therapist (and yes, I now have a massage therapist...this is part of my new plan to treat myself right) says working on my back is like working on a man. Meaning I'm a tense collection of knots. Not that I needed her to tell me that. My body hurts most of the time. I don't think it's supposed to be this way. In fact, I'm sure it's not.

It's time I start listening to my symptoms. So I'm making some changes. I'm prioritizing, and rather than dropping any balls, I'm just going to put some down for a while. I have this new goal. It's called, "putting my happiness first." Novel idea, isn't it? It starts by taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. It starts with deciding what truly matters to me, right now, and knowing how to prioritize that. It starts with trusting myself, and allowing delight back into my life. It starts by believing that success is being me, with all my weird and silly idiosyncrasies; success is not blindly following a path simply because it's in front of me.

So my first step is to cut back and make time. Cut back on what isn't my priority right now, and make time for what is. With that said, I'm happy to say I've decided to take some time off from my graduate program at Bastyr. While I have every intention of finishing my degree, I've got to set that ball aside and focus on what's most important to me right now. My health, this blog, my cookbook, my family and friends...and laughter.

I don't want to miss out on any more of my life. 

As always, thank you for listening. And here's one more way for me to thank you: Carrot Cream Soda. An antioxidant filled alternative to orange soda. Makes me happy and fills my cells with delight. Or something like that.

Carrot Cream Soda

3 carrots
1 1-inch slice of fresh ginger
1/2 cup sparkling water
5-10 drops liquid stevia

  1. Juice the carrots and ginger. Add more or less ginger depending on your personal preference. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, so I use more when I have a headache. 
  2. Stir in the sparkling water and stevia. Add ice if desired. 
Serves 1


gfe--gluten free easily said...

Iris, this is a beautifully written post. I'm so glad that your sharing and the exchange of thoughts the other day helped clarify what you need to do/where you want to be. Those balls you're juggling are pretty great ones. I love the analogy. It reminds me of obvious realities. Nobody can juggle more than a few balls at once. In order to add another one (or two) into the mix, we have to be willing to put some down for a while. It sounds like you've figured out one to put down for a while. That is powerful!

Two quotes come to mind (you know I love quotes, right?): "Happiness is available. Please help yourself to it." ~ Thich Nhat Hahn and "If only we'd stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time." ~ Edith Wharton We have so many ideas in our head of what happiness should be ... what it will look like, what it will feel like that we miss so many moments of true happiness because there are no neat labels on them or flashing neon lights to give us a heads up. ;-) Simplifying one's life can be an avenue to recognizing and relishing in this happiness. I'm guilty of letting too much stuff (physical and mental) creep into mine of late, so thank you for the inspiration to refocus and let go of that which I don't need.

I know you'll get through this period, Iris, and come out even stronger, healthier, and more beautiful (in every sense) than ever before.


Jonathan G. Itchon said...

"You're not alone." You know that...I know that...but still it's nice to hear. There are times in our lives that we have so much going on that we fight to keep it under control, throwing our bodies and minds into hyperdrive. But with our hands so full, how then can we possibly embrace the opportunities, experiences, and beautiful people around us?

I'm so glad that you found some answers, and with them, resolve to put yourself first. :)

Naomi Devlin said...

This is really moving Iris. I hope you can keep coming back to that desire to put yourself first.

Did you know that you can absorb the vitamin A better from carrot juice if it has some fat in it? A little dash of cream in that soda would make it even more anti-inflammatory and rather decadently delicious! Alternatives are coconut milk or some almond butter.

x x x

Morri said...

Oh this is YUMMY! So simple, yet so delicious. I wonder how a little frothed milk (dairy or non) on top would taste with it...

Now I'm craving carrot juice. :)

Barb said...

Iris, I have Hashimoto's Disease too. When I was finally diagnosed and the right medicine to get my thyroid back in balance, I felt amazingly better. It took 8 weeks for the meds to balance the hormone. I've had sonograms of my thyroid 3 times now. The first one looked suspicious so I've had 2 more. I have one more this month and, if it is still normal, I won't have to have any more. Just to be able to do all that you've been doing with this disease is unbelievable. You're a strong woman and you will get things back to normal soon. Love the ball analoogy! Best wishes as you move forward.


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