Hi, I’m Tasha aka The Healthy Hashhead and I’m on a mission to help you alleviate your IBS symptoms, improve your nutrition, ease your anxiety, and expand your fitness by teaching you how to connect to and listen to your gut. I want to show you how to get rid of belly bloat, reduce inflammation, sleep better, eat a varied diet of foods that don’t trigger horrible reactions, think better, feel more productive, and finally fit into those jeans! This is what the high road to gut health looks like.
Living with IBS
At the age of 31, I ended up in hospital for two weeks with abdominal pain that was so bad, I had to be sedated for six days. Doctors did every test on me, sticking tubes down my throat, giving me rotten drinks that emptied my colon, and inserting rods up my bum. None of it was pleasant. They found nothing wrong. By the end of those two weeks, I’d lost 7kgs, and felt more fragile than a newborn. The worst was yet to come.
Over the next 12 months, the list of food I could eat without feeling sick grew smaller. Because the doctors told me there was nothing wrong with me, I felt isolated, confused, and unsupported. At the time, I was sleeping for around fourteen hours a day, getting up late in the morning, and going back to bed in the afternoon. A friend gave me a book that said cutting out dairy might be beneficial. I cut out everything bar salad, and lived on lettuce, carrots and tomatoes for the next six months.
I noticed big improvements, and for the next few years, I was careful about my food choices but had no real system, and never knew what might trigger a flare-up. By this point, I was used to the pain and discomfort anyway; it was my normal. Typically, I’d find something I could eat, and live on it till it too began to bother me, and finally, I’d no longer be able to eat it. This went on for years. All the while, I was tired, grumpy, anxious and/or depressed. I felt powerless. Life was a constant struggle.
Taming My Gut
My healing process began five years ago when I quit drinking alcohol, and joined a gym. I chose the gym because I had an ex who lifted weights, and thought, OK, I’ll try that. OMG! What a good decision. I quickly learned that exercise was a great way to manage both inflammation and pain. There were days when I was doubled up in pain due to bloating, gas or inflammation but I forced myself to go to the gym because I knew that by the end of my workout the pain would be gone. It worked every time.
Because fitness and nutrition go hand in hand, I also began to experiment with food as part of my new gym lifestyle. I tried all the diets doing the rounds, including Paleo, high-fat low-carb, and of course, Keto. Over the course of three years, I learned not only how to cook but how to shop and fill my fridge with whole food options. I learned how to spend time in the kitchen, and the value of ingredients as well as making food from scratch. I learned to bake my own bread and cookies, and developed a new relationship with food.
During this time, my weight fluctuated wildly and I continued to live with symptoms. The only difference was I now had a way to manage those symptoms by going to the gym. And even though I was getting stronger, I was still overweight, bloated and anxious most of the time. But the more time I spent in the gym, the more I started to question my body, and began to get frustrated with my lack of progress. I was grateful for the progress so far, but I wanted more.
Listening to My Gut
Even though I was acquiring new skills, and had developed a new conversation with my body, it wasn’t until I started to prioritise my emotional health that I saw real physical improvements. Like most people with gut issues, I was disconnected from my gut feelings, which made it impossible to know what was best for my health and wellbeing.
For years, I’d been choosing the wrong people, places and past-times, and when they faded away, I was left wondering why I felt so empty inside. A few years ago, I became a recluse, and stopped going outside except to go to the gym, buy food, or walk the dog. By then, my anxiety was out of control, meaning every conversation, task, and thought carried with it the fear that stalked my troubled mind. Until I acknowledged that my mind wasn’t the problem, but my gut, and it was trying to tell me something – all I had to do was listen.
At first, I had no idea what to listen for, and the only thing I had in my favour was solitude. With no friends, and no social life, I had nothing to do and nowhere to go but inwards. With the help of a therapist I trusted (we all need help sometimes, and asking for it can be the first step to healing) I was able to change to conversation with myself, eliminating negative self-talk and seek out positive solutions. Over the course of a year, I set new goals for myself, and found new ways to make myself accountable to myself.
Healing My Gut
This process came full circle when I decided to study nutrition so that I’d be able to help other people. Today, I look back at photos of myself from years ago, and all I see are my bloated face and sad eyes. In the last five years, I’ve made so many changes to my diet, fitness program, and life, I’m literally a different person, a healthy and motivated person, someone who cares about my wellbeing and that of other people.
To heal, I had to let all my preconceptions of who I was go, and accept that I was starting from zero. I had to accept that I didn’t really know who I was at all, but rather than seeing that as a bad thing, I saw me as a blank canvas, and I could paint the picture however I chose. Thankfully, I had an arsenal of activities that I knew fired my soul such as weight-lifting, reading, writing, and baking, and I gave each of them more space in my life.
At the same time, I was able to change my diet again, this time from a more informed place, that of a nutritionist, taking into account my macro, mineral and vitamin needs. I also experimented with new ways of eating, in particular fasting, and tried new ingredients, adding cannabis-infused butter to biscuits and breads. For me, cannabis was the last piece of the puzzle, the catalyst that finally calmed my stomach. Cannabis is not for everyone but people who are open to it, it can be life-changing medicine.
Next Level Nutrition
The ultimate goal of any healing process is to figure out how to live a happier life, one that is pain-free and feels spontaneous, has joy and adventure and opportunities to learn, one that’s driven by purpose, and enables you to wake up every day enthusiastic about your plans. When your body is healthy, it supports what you want to do, helps you concentrate and focus and get things done, helps you stick with a challenge, guides you over the finish line, never holds you back.
This is what we have to reverse with IBS – our bodies have been holding us back for years except we didn’t know it. We didn’t know it because we lost contact with our gut feelings, and as a result, lost the connection between our bodies and our dreams. But once we know the two are connected, and in fact one can’t be happy without the other, we have something to work with.
This is why no healing process can focus on diet alone. If you’re not happy with your job, body, relationship, home, education, kids, whatever it is that’s bugging you, your healing will be hindered by it until you figure out how to let it go. This is the hardest part of the process: being willing to take stock of the emotional quality of your life and figure out how to improve yourself so that it too can improve. It’s a daily challenge, and one makes self-care your priority.
My self-care routine is a work-in-progress, but I have no pain in my gut, anymore, ever. I know exactly what I can and can’t eat. I have clear rules for myself to avoid problems, and am strict about those rules as my wellbeing depends on them. I don’t eat anything unless I’ve prepared it myself, and that may sound extreme, but clear boundaries keep my gut happy, while my hard-earned knowledge gives me the confidence to know what food choices are best for me. You can have that confidence, too, and if you’re interested, I can show you how to get it.
If you’d like to know more about developing a meal plan that doesn’t trigger your IBS, fuels and nourishes you and will even help you to lose or maintain weight, get in touch today for a FREE CONSULTATION.