Sharing my health and food explorations online has been a particularly interesting experiment, not least seeing how the Wellness industry has exploded over the last year or so. As I’ve mentioned many times before, I never really thought that anybody would follow my Instagram account or be interested in my blog. The Instagram was a personal experiment with a visual food diary and my original blog was a place to rant about EDS. Because it’s a massive pain in the arse. Literally and metaphorically.
When I started getting followers I felt like it was important for me to create a Nutritiously Natasha blog, moving away from just day to day illness stuff and into food. I could see that’s what was popular. But it didn’t sit so well with me.
Here’s the thing. The reason I choose to share a lot of personal information publicly is so that I can raise awareness about living with chronic invisible illnesses (the tag line of my old blog was The Trials, Tantrums and Triumphs…) because that’s what I think is important. Things are so up and down and all over the place that there’s constantly something to document. It may be good, it may be bad, it may be ugly, but I want to be honest about it.
When I first changed my diet and saw amazing results in how I was feeling I was, understandably, shocked, overwhelmed and excited. After feeling so unwell on medication it seemed like I was making huge progress. This, understandably, was fuelled by the hundreds of “Wellness” accounts I followed on Instagram and the corresponding blogs that I followed. I started picking up the same language. Detox became a regular part of my vocabulary and I became obsessed with the foods I had deemed to be the purest and the healthiest. The information I was spouting was often coming from people who were, in all honesty, hardly more qualified than I was. I just wanted to feel as happy and as healthy as they portrayed themselves to be on their social media profiles. Of course, I’m bright enough to know that we all only show certain sides of ourselves, but the sheer amount of this that we’re exposed to on a daily basis somewhat conditions us against rational thinking, especially when we’re desperate to find ways to feel better or improve our lives.
After a while, I started to realise that the frequency and normalised demonisation of food groups among these networks provides fertile breeding ground for eating disorders. My obsession was starting to become overwhelming. It makes sense – when you find something that works, you want to tell everyone and share whatever you can. I never claimed a cure, but I did shout from the rooftops about how much better my mainly liquid, gluten free, vegan, refined sugar free, low-ish histamine, high nutrient, anti-inflammatory rotation diet made me feel and how I was sure that it was (mostly) the answer to my problems. I’m so bored of writing that.
But then I had a flare up. And then another flare up.
Why wasn’t my diet working? Why were all these gorgeous, slim girls glowing and healing from illnesses while I was doing the same things and my body just wasn’t cooperating?
Here’s the thing. There’s only so much diet can do. And what diet does is different for everybody, even if they have the same illnesses. The problem is that with many multi-system and complicated disorders (especially ones that are still relatively unresearched and not well understood) there is actually very little that medical professionals can do short of trying some medications and otherwise offering lifestyle adaption techniques. And if you’re in the middle of a pretty severe flareup, there’s only so much this can help.
I am encouraged to see that more research is starting to be done. Interestingly, I received an email the other day about a research study being conducted into the link between extreme joint flexibility and food allergies. If you have EDS, please do check it out here.
One of the traps that I fell into when I was feeling better was trying to write like a lot of other people in the ‘scene’. However, as the months went on, I realised that I was sometimes talking about things that I’m not necessarily in a place to talk about.
So, with that being said, there are a few things I’d like to make clear and a few promises I’d like to make to you all:
- I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or dietician, and as such I will not give nutritional advice or guidance. I will share my own personal experiences with what has helped me. This does not, under any circumstances, mean that I am recommending that other people try what I try unquestioningly. My course at IIN, while interesting, is not what I would consider enough to make me an expert. My intention with the course was to increase my scope of knowledge but mainly help me frame my way of working with and supporting others who are looking to try and help themselves. It is not my place to offer dietary or lifestyle solutions, but I hope that I can serve as a source of inspiration (or mutual head nodding when times are tough!) to continue to fight and try to find things that help us feel better.
- While I am lucky that at the moment I am pretty much medication free, I do not believe doctors are evil and all drugs are bad. I have recently gone back on the pill after refusing it for over a year (because I didn’t want to take synthetic hormones) and it has pretty much fixed my monthly suicidal feelings. That being said, I was also wary about the effect it has on joint laxity and am having to be mindful and keep that in check. Several posts about me last year didn’t focus on the fact that the reason I didn’t take medicine was because I was having the most severe side effects possible and often odd, idiosyncratic reactions that made me feel infinitely worse. Do not stop taking medication because a blogger told you to. Always seek advice of a medical professional.
- I will share the highs and lows, honestly, about my day to day experiences. When I write about things being difficult I am not being overly negative. I am being truthful. Sometimes things are just a certain way and it’s not that I have a bad attitude. Sometimes I just physically can’t
- I am not a chef. I love food, but I have no training in cookery. I will be working with some of my favourite food bloggers/chefs to share recipes. If my health allows it over the coming years I would love to study food and nutrition in more depth. At the moment, unfortunately, this is not possible.
- I do not demonise food groups and will not encourage anyone else to do so. I will endeavour to frame the conversation within my own personal experiences, as well as providing the best research possible. If I do share studies, I will aim to explain the strengths and limitations of that study. I highly recommend reading this piece on spotting quack medicine and how to assess the strength of evidence in medical research here and here to help empower you when you’re doing research for yourself.
- At this point I’d like to just reiterate that I’m not denying, in any way, the effect that changes in diet and lifestyle have had on my health. I was talking to a friend about this the other day, and she reminded me that “dude, you went from literally not being able to eat a banana to now being able to eat anything you want!” I entirely give credit to the many months I spent predominately on green liquids and the progression of reintroducing food after food. I guess my problem is faddishness when it comes to the way we talk about ‘healing’ through natural causes.
- I do believe that lifestyle changes are also extremely important. For me, finding ways to manage my emotional health and happiness has played a huge role in my ability to manage my reactions to flare ups and get by day to day even when things are ok. I would love to share some of these with you, experiment more on myself, and start challenges that other people can join in. I’ll be sharing reviews of some of my favourite books and resources too, as well as sharing a bit more about some of the places I go and things I do.
So…yeah. That’s where I currently stand at the moment. I hope you’ll continue to stay with me and will enjoy my upcoming posts. I am working on redesigning my blog and am aiming to relaunch it in about a month. You can subscribe to my mailing list here and I’d love to hear in the comments about anything that you’d be interested in hearing about from me.
I also want to just quickly say thank you to everyone for all the amazing support, comments and emails you’ve sent me over the last year or so. It has been fantastic connecting with you all. Sorry if it sometimes takes a while for me to reply, I’m probably half-watching Netflix!