For a long time, my family considered me to be “the girl with a cast-iron stomach.” I rarely got the stomach flu, food poisoning, or any other sort of gastrointestinal queasiness. And that still holds true. I haven’t been sick to my stomach since my senior year of high school (and before that, I hadn’t been sick since 3rd grade). But these days, I have a lot of stomach issues. Mostly due to the fact that it’s really difficult for me to eat without feeling nauseous or being bloated and in extreme pain. I don’t know what it is, and yes, I’ve consulted both my GP and the good Dr. Google. IBS, gluten intolerance, allergies, lactose intolerance, candida overgrowth, gallbladder disease…the list of possibilities goes ever on, but I have yet to be diagnosed. I’ve done hours upon hours of research and have tried eliminating myriad different foods, with differing levels of success. Some people suggest a Paleo diet to cure all gut issues, others recommend an entirely plant-based diet, and still others suggest obscure supplements and strange “lifestyle interventions” (I’ll take my coffee in my favorite mug and NOT in an enema bag, thank you very much). For now, I take note of the things that don’t make me feel ill, and make those foods that base of my diet. I plan lunch and dinner dates around restaurants that offer at least a few things that I know are probably safe bets, and I pack my own food 90% of the time that I’m at work or on the road. And while I’m sick of feeling sick (and looking pregnant) after most meals, this isn’t really about my gastrointestinal misadventures.
The other night, I found myself eating a late dinner of leftover beans and barley – both of which I’ve found can provoke my symptoms, but I was hangry (hungry+angry) and it was past 21:00 and I hadn’t food prepped for the week yet. I was reminded, as my stomach felt like it was eating itself and began to swell, that looks can be deceiving. I’ve been steadily leaning out lately, but no one who saw me and my distended midsection that night would believe it. They would think I was in my second trimester or living on a strict diet of Budweiser and corndogs.
I’ve become so accustomed to having an upset stomach that most of the time I don’t give my faux beer-belly a second thought. But I used to be so thrown off by it, and seeing myself when I was bloated and sick made me cry because I thought all the hard work I’d put into my body was gone down the drain. Look at this comparison between these photos. There is only a 9 hour difference between them, from Monday night (left) and Tuesday morning (right):
I want to point out just how deceiving the human body can be. I’m a big believer in not getting caught up in the minutia of day-to-day variances, be it in your weight, your shape, your performance at the gym, or the food on your plate. What really matters is the overall trend:
are you consistently building or maintaining healthful habits?
are you consistently eating foods that you enjoy and which nourish your body?
are you consistently active in ways that challenge your body and give you a sense of well-being?
are you consistently giving yourself time for proper recovery and plenty of sleep?
are you consistently happy with your lifestyle?
You can’t answer those questions based on a single meal, a single workout, a single weigh-in, a single “fat-day,” or even a single week. You have to look at the overall trend – where you came from, where you’ve been, where you’re headed, and where you want to go.
Trust me. Looks can be deceiving.