Jan 27 2014
Eat Your Heart Out
I grew up in the late ’70s eating McDonald’s, Froot Loops, cookies, meats, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, Cheez Whiz, and a lot of other processed foods. They weren’t genetically modified back then, but still, it is no surprise that I was a chub-chub. My Egyptian genes didn’t help.
I have memories of being six and called “tub-of-lard” in the girl’s bathroom. My puppy love, Peter, told me once in front a group of kids during recess that “I was so fat, I could roll around the world.” There were two Armenian girls who I later befriended who would prank call me on a regular basis after dinner. They would hang up when I said “hello” but not before calling me “fatso.”
At 13, on the dawn of my first period and Judy Blume novels I lost a little bit of weight, and was the highlight at a classmate’s party during Spin The Bottle. I was wearing a polka dot dress with my hair in curls and now suddenly the boys wanted to kiss the nerd and former fat girl with the pouffy lips.
As a teen, my weight went up and down. I tried diets like FitforLife that encouraged the consumption of raw fruits and vegetables, and the Scarsdale Medical Diet, which advocated low-fat, low-calorie foods for weight loss.
I lived on carrot sticks, fruit salads, and cottage cheese. I became anorexic. And then I became bulimic. This paved the way to a very warped self-image.
I started going out with a smart and cute boy who played football and discovered exercise. I saw him comment on women’s bodies and became even more conscious about mine. I discovered step classes, the treadmill, and weights. It took me a while to see results because the bulimia had messed up my metabolism.
I went vegetarian for seven years, lifted weights, took diet pills, and drank disgusting fuel-burning concoctions.
My weight bounced from 138 to 128. I am 5’4”. Inside I felt petite but you could not tell.
Eventually my weight stabilized at 128. I ate in moderation, returned to meat, and stayed away from sweets. I thought I ate well.
I was 29 when I was hit by a hulking piece of metal at 45 miles an hour. I was a pedestrian, dragged 50 feet before the driver realized he had hit a human. I broke several bones and underwent severe shock.
I was outfitted with a metal rod inside my broken left femur. When I awoke from surgery, I managed to ask them to take me off the morphine, which sent me to a hazy Hades. I found the drug disgusting and depressing. From there on out, I did not take any pain meds.
When the drugs wore off, I realized I’d developed what I dubbed “super nasal powers.” Seriously, I could smell the orderly down the hall. I could break him down with my olfactory senses. He was a mixture of cigarette smoke and Tide detergent.
After a mere week at Cedar’s Sinai, I was released and told I did not need physio therapy.
A special hospital van took me back home and during that ride, it was like I was existing in the world for the first time. The cityscape beyond the window pane seemed especially crisp and alive.
I soon realized that all my senses were heightened. In addition to super nasal powers I became sensitive to lights; I was no longer able to sleep without an eye mask. I could no longer stand harsh chemicals like Windex or even Comet. When I finally was able to leave the house three months later, I noticed that street lights went off in my presence when I hobbled by.
For three years I lived with a constant pain in my left leg. There were days when I wanted to cut into my leg myself and remove it. Then finally I underwent surgery and got rid of the metal inside my body. My pain vanished over night.
But I was never the same. I had one rib that wouldn’t heal. Over the year, I caught pneumonia on a job and had to be hospitalized. I found out I had developed an orange size cyst on my ovary. During a day like all the others, my stomach became swollen. And stayed swollen. I looked like I was two months pregnant. I felt huge. I felt terrible.
Meanwhile, a strange pulsing electrical pain had started orbiting around my belly.
What the hell was wrong with me? Had I not suffered enough? It had been one thing after the next since my accident. I joked to myself that I should write a book called Mimi’s Medical Mishaps.
I never suspected the foods I was eating could help me heal or make me hurt.
By now I ate fish and salads and bagels with tuna. My morning breakfast consisted of a bowl of oatmeal, topped with a banana and berries. And even though I also had developed insomnia, I still drank black coffee. I thought I ate well.
Since the age of 10, I’ve fantasized about having a flat stomach. And now it was even more huge and I felt like crap.
I became obsessed with trying to figure out what was wrong. I was bloated and in discomfort for about six months.
During that time, I visited a gastroenterologist who performed a double whammy endoscopy and colonoscopy. I had cameras inserted into both ends of me. They found a few polyps which they removed. But the tests were negative. I was no closer to knowing what the hell was happening to my body.
I bought two large encyclopedias on alternative medicine and began looking up my symptoms. I read about the protein “gluten” found in wheat and learned about candidiasis, an overgrowth of yeast. I suspected that the accident had caused my hormones to go out of whack and had fatigued my adrenals. The antibiotics I had to take during my bout with a lung infection had ruined my gut flora. Maybe it was all related—holistic health rather than all compartmentalized?
Fortunately I found an amazing Naturopath (ND) named Dr. Lisa Fillis, and together we embarked on my journey back to health. She ordered tests and indeed concluded that I was allergic to gluten, along with a host of other things like egg whites, walnuts, dairy, sugar cane, and more.
I was gluten sensitive. And I also had a leaky gut, which meant my intestinal lining had become porous. As a result larger, undigested food molecules and other “bad stuff” like yeast, toxins, and all other forms of waste were flowing freely into my bloodstream.
I went on a strict candida diet—in addition to the wheat, sugar cane, and dairy I had already eliminated from my diet, I stayed away from fruits, starchy vegetables, and grains like rice. I experienced colonics.
That summer, I got a manual wheat grass machine and pressed juice every day. To this day, I can’t think of wheat grass without gagging. I took E3 Live which helped reduce inflammation and helped turn fog into focus.
I started taking marshmallow root and glutamine to restore the lining in intestines, natural progesterone to balance my hormones, tryptophan for sleep, adrenal supplements, and probiotics. For breakfast I eventually developed HoneyColony’s Organic Weight Loss Smoothie. And began taking what is today my five must have supplements pack.
I became fascinated with nutrition and health, and read several books. I found myself helping folks in the supplement aisle at the health food store.
Today, I am gluten-free, sugar-free, and dairy-free. I weigh 109 pounds and have so for years. I start my day with the superfood smoothie, and eat lots of raw foods and lean organic fish. I occasionally eat grass-fed bison meat and I stay away from grains except brown rice, which doesn’t seem to bother me. I indulge in raw cacao bars and raw deserts. I eat plenty of organic coconut oil and don’t believe that avocados, olive oil, or nuts will make me fat. I eat plenty of superfoods.
I exercise at least five times a week. As a devoted yogi, I practice Modo, which is a hot yoga that hails from Canada, as well as spin and hike.
I am more fit today at 41 then at 21. I believe you will not get fat if you exercise and eat clean whole foods free of processed ingredients and chemicals. I am an advocate for a toxic-free, clean food supply, and believe that each person can take health into his or her own hands through clean food and diet. Peter, eat your heart out.
Maryam Henein is an investigative journalist, professional researcher, and producer of the award-winning documentary Vanishing of the Bees.
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