After my last baby was born at the end of 2017, I wanted to believe I was in such a good place.
I hadn’t gained any weight at all during pregnancy, and was 15 lbs below pre-pregnancy weight the day I gave birth. I was so hyper-focused on my weight that I didn’t notice what else was going on…or how bad things were actually going.
In the weeks after my baby was born, I started trying to exercise, figuring I’d lose more weight and tone up and be super healthy and great by spring….
But what actually happened was a slow slide to a breakdown, and a long, hard climb back up. This is what really happened.
Why Weight Wasn’t the Issue
I did weigh my lowest amount in years in early 2018. But weight alone is not a good marker for overall health — and I learned that the hard way.
I was skipping meals often, not resting, and when I did eat, it was all salads and smoothies (lots of fresh foods). I was trying to exercise a few days a week. I was doing everything “right.”
And yet…when I exercised, I felt dizzy and weak. When I weighed myself the next day, my weight would actually go up. And up. And UP.
The harder I tried to exercise and eat “right,” the weaker I felt and the more weight I gained. My anxiety was out of control, my energy was low, and when my period returned postpartum it was not at all regular. My skin was still broken out and rough. I felt stressed out all the time.
Through the fall of 2019, I kept pushing myself (now, much heavier). I tried to go back to the gym (more weight gain). I was working everyday.
I reached a point, at the end of the year, where I simply couldn’t do it anymore. In January of 2020, I stopped going to work for a few months. (I did work from home part-time.) I was exhausted all the time. I was starving but afraid to eat because my anxiety was so bad. I did not go out to stores or do anything. My husband was doing most of the childcare and chores, because I could not.
It was bad. Worse than I was willing or able to admit at the time. I was doing absolutely nothing to actually take care of myself. I wasn’t taking supplements, wasn’t eating (even though what I was eating was perfectly healthy), wasn’t sleeping. My anxiety was so over the top I couldn’t function. I had no drive to do anything except work on my computer…I lost all my interest in my hobbies, and I didn’t have energy for them anyway.
I want to say, here, that how much I weighed had nothing to do with my symptoms. My patterns of poorly coping with stress and trying to push myself too hard caused my weight gain. My weight didn’t cause all my other symptoms. So many women end up in the place that I was…exhausted, stressed, struggling with energy and sleep and eating habits, heavier than they want to be…. And doctors will tell them it’s all caused by their weight and if they’d just lose the weight they’d be healthy. But I wasn’t heavy when I started…it happened because of everything else.
After years of essentially starving myself, I began to experience liver pain — bloating and aching on my upper right side. This made it hard for me to want to eat, made me not feel well when I did eat, struggle to sleep (due to the pain), and have so little energy to do anything.
I knew that I had to make some serious changes.
Climbing Out of the Hole
That’s where I was in early 2020: exhausted. Anxious. Low appetite. Liver issues. Insomnia.
First, I stayed home for awhile and let myself rest. I tried to prioritize eating regularly (but didn’t truly get better at this until late 2021). I tried to stop focusing on my weight, and focus instead on my energy, my nutrition, what I needed to feel better.
I reminded myself that I matter, too. Not more or less than anyone else, but I matter, and my needs matter. (My husband often tried to tell me this, but I didn’t listen.) I’d spent so many years taking care of babies and then my business that I always put myself last. Changing my focus and actively working to set boundaries and lower my stress levels was a key first step.
I reached a place where I felt mostly functional by mid-spring 2020. I was able to go out places again (when they weren’t locked down…) and do things. I still struggled to eat regularly enough, my energy level wasn’t what I wished it was, but I didn’t feel broken anymore.
The big turning points came in Sept. 2021 and March 2022.
In Sept, my husband and I took a short trip to a cabin in the woods, alone, while the kids stayed at grandma’s. For three days, I laid in bed, read books, took naps, and ate food. I didn’t worry about anyone or anything else. And I decided that when we got back to town, I was going to start a supplement routine and actually stick to it.
Up until this point, I’d dabbled with supplements, but I’d stop taking them the second I felt “fine.” (Even though, for many months, how I really felt was fine-but-not-fine.) It was like…a weird mental game, that I didn’t really need this stuff, it was just an extra bonus. As a result, I wasn’t getting better.
But after that trip, I really did start on a supplement routine and stick with it. It’s been 9 months now, and I rarely miss days (maybe once a month). I’ve tweaked it a little bit over time, but it’s working for me.
My supplement routine has been:
- Magnesium glycinate (1 capsule in AM)
- Probiotics (1 capsule in AM)
- Greens (1 capsule in AM)
- Raw zinc (1 capsule in AM)
- Ceylon cinnamon (2 capsules in AM)
- Ginger (1 capsule in AM)
- Master Tonic (20 drops in AM)
- Good Night Lotion (1 – 2 tsp on legs and belly in PM)
I have also, at different points, used Oyster-Min (for zinc and B12), Elderberry Elixir (throughout the winter), Anxiety Calm (initially helped me feel more balanced and get better sleep).
This routine made me feel…much more normal. My appetite began to return to normal and I started to eat more consistently. I began sleeping a solid 8 hours most nights, and I didn’t have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. My cycle normalized (and became nearly painless). My energy improved.
I still felt fine-but-not-fine because my liver continued to be a dull pain, on and off. It wasn’t like it had been months earlier, but it wasn’t healed. I used castor packs and Liver Love to help with this. I also noticed that when I ate consistently, it hurt less; and when I ate sporadically, it hurt more. (There may well have been gallbladder involvement too — it was hard to tease out at times.)
This, too, coincided with my husband and I taking a short trip. (Which is ironic, because I don’t find traveling relaxing, and was very happy to be home!)
Through most of this time — dating back to mid-2014, after we left our home due to toxic mold — I had not been able to drink kombucha. I had experienced a lot of benefits from kombucha from 2009 – 2014, but after the mold exposure, it would flare my anxiety badly. I had to stay away.
In March, I tried kombucha again. This time, it didn’t cause my anxiety to flare…or any negative effects. In fact…within a week or two, my energy levels came up, my anxiety level dropped, my liver pain was mostly gone, and I felt more normal than I had in years. I was interested in doing all kinds of projects again, and began to pick up all kinds of new hobbies and activities.
I began to get more physical activity, too, particularly getting out in the garden. I reached a point where if I sat too long, I felt like I needed to get up and move around. For so long I had just felt so tired that I had to force myself to get up and move. It was so nice.
I had been gluten-free for years (since late 2018) and I was finally able to eat gluten again. My skin had cleared up completely. (I now post makeup-free pictures of myself sometimes and don’t hate it.)
It took me a solid 6 months of focusing on my health deliberately, making sure I took supplements, tweaking what I was doing as my body began to heal, ensuring that I was eating regularly and well (altering my diet to stay away from most sweet foods, including most fruit; and focusing on well-cooked veggies and soups instead of salads), and really listening to what my body needed at any given time.
I continued to prioritize keeping my stress levels low, staying off social media when I needed to (I have enough going on in my life that I don’t need the cortisol spike from arguing with strangers), and ensuring that I was sleeping enough.
And my weight? I honestly don’t think it’s changed (but I don’t want to know, either). Maybe, hopefully, I will be able to lose some in the coming months, as I’m more active and continuing to eat well. But if I don’t…I’ll be honest and say I don’t love being as heavy as I am right now. Being healthy enough that I can enjoy my life without crushing anxiety and lack of energy is so much more important, though.At work at Earthley in June 2022 — no makeup!
What I Learned From All This
Health isn’t just how you look. And it’s not about being able to just get through the day.
It’s about being free from serious anxiety or depression. About having the energy to enjoy things. About being able to focus on all the things you’re doing instead of how you’re feeling.
I won’t ever be 100% again, probably. I had a slight setback after a minor stomach bug ran through my house in mid-May (I’m off gluten again now), but I’m still far better than I was several months ago, and I know there is a way back to feeling good again.
I also know that I’m able to do more for others when I feel like my needs are met. When I’ve slept, and eaten, and have energy, I can use my abundance to help others. When I feel exhausted and stressed and my needs are unmet, I really struggle to be able to do anything for anyone.
I also learned that it’s important to figure out what works for me. There’s no special diet, specific supplement routine, protocol, or anything that some “guru” or expert came up with that will fix me if I follow it closely enough. I had to dig deep and listen to my body and do what worked for me. Reading information certainly helped me, gave me clues on where to start, but no one else could provide me with the entire answer.
I encourage others who are in my situation to do the same…no one can tell you just what you need — they can only provide you with information you can use to discover it yourself. That’s hard when you’re exhausted and brain foggy and ready to give up on getting better…but it’s the only way forward.
One resource I can offer you is a free guide called What No One Tells You About Hormone Imbalance. It’s the culmination of all my research (and my team’s) into what hormones do, the vitamins and minerals that strongly impact you, what tests can help you discover what’s going on, and how to start rebalancing yourself.
And please, please stop focusing on your appearance or especially your weight. It’s one tiny clue, but it’s not nearly as important as your energy, your mental state, your gut health, and so much else. Take care of all of these details first. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that everything is because of your weight or shame you into thinking you have to do “whatever it takes” to lose weight (which can put your body under further stress, cause more metabolic issues, worsen mental health, create deficiencies, and more). How you feel is what matters most. Not what you look like.
Wow thank you for sharing this. This is how I have felt since my only child was born in late 2013 I was 45. I was always tired as he was a child that never slept more than 3 hours at a time. But always thought I’m tired because I’n an older mom. Just as we got relief when he started to sleep Then in 2018 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since then I have had several major health issues that make this journey even harder and I am always exhausted, struggling to make it through a day. This last year the weight piled on making my health issues worse, I feel I’m in a horrible cycle that never gets better. As I read your story I was like wow someone understands how I feel! I’m sorry you had to go through this but so appreciative that you wrote about it and shared it. It gives me hope I can get better and be the mom I always wanted to be and give my son the mom he deserves!