When Your No Becomes a Yes: Indulging the Journey of Self-Care

 

self-care

I love to eat, but I hate to chew. I live to taste, but digest? Now that’s something that doesn’t come easily to me. My unconscious pattern: get food in my mouth and swallow—not necessarily grind it in my teeth and rip it to shreds as a way to kick-start the digestion process. Nope. I’m more of a taste and swallow kind of girl. (Do what you want with that comment. Lol.)

And cooking? Ha. As a New Yorker, when I get hungry my knee-jerk reaction is to think about what I want to order. I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid having to learn to cook. I’ve even hired a personal chef to batch cook for me in advance, so there’s always healthy food in my fridge. I have an adorable husband who loves to cook, so I often let him take the lead there. I have however become a fierce smoothie and green juice maker—no cooking or intense chewing required there!

But as I contend with my latest round of health problems—all very much centered around digestion and dietary needs—I realize these patterns just don’t work anymore. Fully chewing my food before swallowing can feel really boring—especially when I have to count all the way to 30! But if I want to aid my digestion process I have to chew. Even though cooking requires a lot of planning—thinking through meals in advance, shopping, prepping, and then, of course, cleaning—I can’t avoid it if I want to eat meals reflective of my deepest needs.

Since the end of August, I’ve taken to the most restrictive food program of my life. Yup—you read that correctly. Restricted. No sugar, no alcohol, no dairy, no grains, no corn, no nuts, no soy… and even more no’s beyond that.

I am not going to lie: during the first couple weeks, I felt challenged, hungry, and fatigued. It got to the point that in addition to restricting my food, I needed to limit my social calendar, too. On Labor Day weekend, I hosted a party. I stocked the house, prepared for the weekend guests, and when they arrived, I said goodbye. I got in my car and drove away—a crazy moment indeed. I knew that if I stayed with my husband to host the party, that I’d feel tormented by chips and rosé (two of my faves). So with a house full of folks gathering at the lake, I took a solo trip to Brooklyn. The following weekend, I did a u-turn on my plans to see one of my favorite bands at Coney Island.

To get this lifestyle adjustment down, I needed to prioritize the conditions that would allow for my success. Limited distractions. And very few temptations.

How could this be worth it? As the summer kicked off, I faced some of the hardest news I have yet to receive on my health journey. My bones, weak and feeble, a side effect of premature menopause, screamed for me to create new structures in my life so they could get what they needed: more nutrients, estrogen, and exercise. Not that I haven’t always given my bones those things. I certainly have. But like a sick baby screaming, they needed more.

As the summer went on, I continued to test everything to find out what might be negating my body’s ability to assimilate the rich nutrients I had fed it along the way. What I discovered was a significant digestive issue: Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, aka SIBO. SIBO indicates that I have bacteria in my small intestine, a place where they aren’t supposed to live. So rather than my nutrients being absorbed into my bloodstream, the bacteria are feeding, usurping my nutrition. Eureka!

Since discovering this, I’ve had a one-track agenda: eradicate the misplaced bacteria.

And here’s the amazing part: even with this super restricted diet and the challenge of eating low FODMAP, I feel awesome.

Back in the spring, I confessed to having gained stubborn weight that I couldn’t lose. I saw it as evidence of a more mature body. While I appreciate having kindness and compassion for my body in all her stages and phases, and I certainly live a very body positive life (never allowing my weight to dictate my worth), the truth is that weight was bloat caused by bacteria. Nice to know. See you later dead weight.

By aligning with a new health regime, I have found a tremendous amount of freedom. My energy has rebounded, I am chewing my food, and I am taking pleasure in cooking. (I know, who is this woman?)

The one thing that is making this all possible for me is having a solid basis in self-care.

Now, I know I’ve mentioned self-care in almost every single one of my blog posts to date (and for a good reason). But it’s time to have a serious heart to heart about this. Because so often I see a lot of confusion about what self-care really means.

Self-care is a process of knowing what you need and consistently providing that for yourself. There will be moments of self-care that you absolutely love, like going to get that massage or pedicure. But there will also be some self-care practices that don’t come so easily, like deep meditation, or taking back your power or embracing silence for a full day at a time. This is where self-care can test us.

At the moment with my dietary needs, my self-care process requires me obliging a lot of no’s. While it certainly won’t always be this way, right now I find it liberating to be so in tune with precisely what my body needs. It feels, well, healing.

For you, your self-care might involve way more yes’s than no’s.

So in a way, self-care means a lot of different things. It’s your responsibility to define it for yourself, in service of the healthiest, most resilient and authentic version of yourself. You have to know who you are and be who you are.

My decades-long health and spiritual journey have encouraged me to hone and prioritize my self-care practices. I’m a self-care veteran, and this is particularly useful as I am massively flexing the self-care muscle of my life right now.

But how about you? What is your relationship to self-care?

As we move fully into this next season, there’s no time like the present to jump on the self-care train. And lucky for you, my beautiful client Jamie Mendell has this amazing offer to help you with the process.

It’s called the Master Your Life Course. In this eight-week journey, Jamie Mendell will lead you to supreme self-care, teaching you what self-care actually looks like and how you can take care of your mind, body, emotions, and soul on a daily basis so you can live your life feeling confident, resilient, lit up, and grounded.

How do I know it’s amazing? I supported Jamie through the creation process of this program and am deeply in tune with every aspect of what she’s put together.

I highly recommend checking it out!

Now over to you. I want to hear what self-care means to you. What are things you do to incorporate more self-care in your life? How do you take care of yourself during times of seasonal transition? Please offer all of your tips and tricks! I know you have great ones.

As always, I send you all of my love.

Here’s to a happy and healthy journey forward.

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8 Comments

  • Anja

    Hey Jen, love and resonate with this post! As somebody who has been doing the strict diets and self care regime for medical reasons for many years, I absolutely love saying no- it nourishes me. I think sometimes people mistake this for orthorexia or control issues but man, when you know and feel something is good for you on the deepest level, even if its a challenge, its so empowering.

    • jracioppi

      I totally understand. I know how hard you have worked on your health, Anja. It takes so much strength! I send you all of my love:)

  • Catherine McNeill

    Hi Jenn! This post really resonated with me. Recently, 3 years of significant health issues and finally culminated in a diagnosis of Celiac Disease. Because of the damage to my intestines from many years of not knowing this, I’m also on a anti-inflammatory gluten, meat, dairy and sugar free diet for a while so that my digestive system can heal. One month in, I’ve never felt better! An unexpected side-effect is that it has reignited my love of cooking and highlighted that I have to truly make time and space for self-care and new lifestyle supporting choices – not just pay lip service to these things. This includes standing in my truth and being clear with what does and doesn’t work for me. I am so glad to hear that your healing journey is going well!

    • jracioppi

      Hey Catherine, Wow, so interesting that we are on parallel health paths. I am all too familiar with Celiac. Yet, the beautiful thing is our healing is really in our hands, and we have the capacity to embrace what “feeds” our soul, as well as our bodies. It’s empowering to know what we need and give it to ourselves! Thank you so much for commenting on this post, and for reading. I am so grateful to you, and I send you so much love! Here’s to your healing, and your enjoyment of your healing path!

  • Doug

    Another amazing blog post… Keep ’em coming!

    • Jess

      Hi Jenn
      Thanks so much for sharing these details of your personal journey. I find I can always relate in some way. Would you tell me how to go about discovering/diagnosing something like SIBO? I think I may be dealing with something similar and I’m not sure where to begin to look for answers.

      • jracioppi

        Hey Jess, Thanks for writing. I discovered I had SIBO via a SIBO breath test. You can learn more about it here. (Sorry the hyperlink is super light, but it’s linked.)

        It’s a great thing to know if you do have it. Keep me posted if you need anything else.

        Warmly,

        Jenn

  • Josh

    Awesome post. If someone is looking for more detailed information on SIBO and specifically how breath testing works I just updated an awesome article to help others navigate testing here:
    https://sibosurvivor.com/sibo-breath-testing/

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