Barriers to Healing: Ownership or Attachment to our Struggles

I’ve been reminded lately of barriers we put in place that prevent us from healing chronic health challenges, or negative habits.

That barrier is how we attach ourselves to and start to own our struggles.

Here are a few example statements that illustrate this:
– My typical GI struggles.
– I’ve always hated vegetables.
– I’ve always struggled with digestion. So have my parents.
– I’ve had that ever since I was kid. I’ve always had it.
– I never recover well during a (marathon) training cycle, and never get my nutrition and health to go right enough to be prepared for the race.
– My anemia pattern.

Another example is identifying with our diagnosis or diet pattern as if it were a job title. This is often easily visible on social media. You might witness or use something like IBS Warrior or Ulcerative Colitis Warrior, or Celiac next to a name in a bio, as an example.

I’ll use my past self as another example. For a long time, I felt like whatever medical mystery that presented as something autoimmune meant I’d be in daily chronic pain forever. This began at age 27. I was in constant fear and anxiety about the pain, and I felt like I couldn’t get outside that experience, even temporarily. Fast forward seven years and my body and mind feel remarkably different. The cloud of bleakness hanging over me, the fear of pain, the internal anguish that I couldn’t understand is no longer part of my everyday.

Yes, when it comes to healing something that has been chronic, finding the right nutrition plan and lifestyle practices are incredibly important. But healing is also energetic. You have to believe it’s possible. And you have to change your mindset and the energy you put around the process.

You have to believe your body is meant to heal.

And we start to believe what we say about ourselves. By saying we always struggle with something, that means deep down that we probably believe we will always struggle with it.

This simple, though definitely not easy, nugget of first changing what we say (out loud and internally) is what catalyzes healing. We start to believe lasting healing is possible. We seek out and then are put into connection with individuals who further light the healing pathway from whatever we’re currently experiencing – an autoimmune condition, IBS, chronic fatigue, a lifetime of emotional and disordered eating and body hate, weight woes, medical diagnoses that are largely written off, etc.

And sometimes our catalyst for healing is just an example from another person.

For instance, we all operate within a community, whether that’s in person in our daily lives, or people we follow online who influence us. Often, we identify with individuals who have journeyed through similar experiences and challenges as us.

What often distinguishes individuals who are incredibly good at healing themselves for the long term, and those that have chronic set-backs, lies in what the first group don’t spend their time doing.

These “experts at healing” don’t hang out in forums or self-help groups with individuals discussing the woes of their symptoms or how bad it is. They get out of their negative head space as soon as they notice they’ve fallen into it. They change their language in how they talk about their health. Instead of statements like “I always struggle with….” or “My faulty digestion….”, they view a health challenge as a temporary setback. My digestion is currently less than ideal — That’s a less permanent way to state that.

Or I haven’t yet arrived at the end of a training cycle feeling like I’ve nailed my nutrition and recovery strategies, but I believe it’s possible and I’m committed to exploring what has prevented me in the past.

Or My doctor believes I have lupus that I’ve put into semi-remission enough to be below the threshold for clinical diagnosis. I am not a victim. And I’m committed to my nutrition and lifestyle practices to continue my journey towards complete healing. This statement was my personal example.

In my case, I refused to mentally identify with or use the word lupus. For one, I didn’t have an actual diagnosis. But for me, that choice was energetic. This is similar to (before then) never using the words celiac, IBS, or dysbiosis about myself–though they were all either likely or true. These words we attach ourselves to are incredibly powerful. And here I am a handful of years later, and I haven’t thought about the words “autoimmune” or “lupus,” “IBS,” or “dysbiosis” as it relates to myself in quite a while.

Think about how you can shift the statements you make about your health. Catch yourself when you say what “you’ve always” said about your situation. Restate it in a less attached, or less in ownership, way.

Let the way you speak be a catalyst for how you think about your health.

*Note on the book pictured above: I don’t remember the plot. But I do remember it was part of my finding joy and rewiring how I thought about my health process.

Thyme-Roasted Eggplant with Basmati Rice, Sumac + Preserved-Lemon

Perhaps because I formally named my blog/this website and subsequent business after it, or because I have a particular affection for the vegetable that seems to be a mystery for most people, I get a lot of questions and recipe requests involving eggplant.

Eggplant is much loved and at home in food cultures of the Middle East region. And after this summer, the second hottest locally on record, I can see why. Eggplant thrives in hot weather. Our usual couple plants and a few nice eggplants for the year has turned into more than I can keep up with lately.

And we’ve been eating it a lot.

For me, eggplant’s meaty, Portobello mushroom-like texture is best prepared by roasting (or grilling). And it doesn’t need the gobs of oil that you often find in eggplant-based recipes.

Eggplant does act as a sponge for oil, but also for moisture in general. A nice tip to keep an eggplant-based meal balanced in terms of oil amount is to add a fair bit of water to the roasting pan. Since most oils are actually best used away from heat, that’s the method here, with a nice quality olive oil being added once all the components are out of the oven and off the stovetop, so the oil isn’t oxidized and damaged by the oven and cooking temperatures.

The other thing to highlight is that all the main components of this dish are made warm or cooked. This is because cooking will make the whole dish easier to digest. Even the dark leafy greens are “heated/gently cooked” in the way I add the fresh out of the oven eggplant over the top, as well as the warm rice and onion, and allow it to steam cook for a minute before gently stirring. The easy to digest factor is also why I’ve chosen to use a (white) basmati rice as the grain component. You can choose another whole grain if you have no digestive problems.

Hope you enjoy. This is definitely a keeper of an eggplant-based recipe!

Thyme-Roasted Eggplant with Basmati Rice, Sumac + Lemon

The mung beans are added as a side-dish to make this a complete meal. Mung beans, either cooked from whole green mung, or split mung dal, are the simplest bean to digest. If you’d rather serve another protein, simply leave out and skip that step in the cooking process.

Prep:  6 hours, unattended  | Cook: 1 hour  | Serves: 4

Roasted Eggplant:
1 kg chopped eggplant
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon sumac
½ tsp. mineral salt
water to partially cover

For Mung Beans:
¾ cup dry mung beans, soaked for at least 6 hours
½ tsp. mineral salt
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chopped dried curry leaf
water to cover

Basmati Rice:
⅛ tsp. mineral salt
½ a red onion, sliced thin
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed and drained
2 cups water

To Finish:
1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped
Up to 2 Tbs. lemon juice, to taste
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 handful dark leafy greens, chopped
1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds OR 1 Tbs. za’atar seasoning
Large handful of cilantro or basil, minced

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Dice the eggplant into medium pieces and place in a baking tray, lined with parchment.Sprinkle with thyme leaves and sumac, salt, and then add water to cover about ⅓ up the sides of the veg. Roast for about an hour, or until completely soft, stirring once or twice throughout.
  • Then start the mung beans. Add drained/soaked mung beans and spices to a medium saucepan. Bring to a medium-high heat and simmer until the spices become fragrant. Add water to cover by a couple inches, then bring to a boil. Once the pot is boiling, turn it down to a simmer and partially cover. Cook for 25-35 minutes, until soft. Set aside.
  • Add 2 cups water to a medium saucepan along with  ⅛ tsp. salt, sliced onion, and the basmati rice. Give it all a good stir, and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 25 minutes. When the rice has finished, take the lid off and allow the steam to escape for a few minutes. 
  • In a large serving bowl, add the diced preserved lemon, chopped leafy greens, and cooked eggplant. Then stir in the steamed rice and onion, along with the lemon juice and olive oil. Before serving, stir in the minced herbs and toasted sesame seeds or za’atar seasoning. 
  • Serve along with the mung beans on the side.

Notes:
– Finely grated lemon zest can be used in place of preserved lemon, if preferred.
– If you only have access to sumac OR za’atar seasoning, choose whichever you have, since za’atar contains the sumac berry as one of it’s components.
Recipe inspired by Emma Galloway of My Darling Lemon Thyme.

A simple digestion tip for when you’re struggling

The last few weeks, I’ve dropped back into a pattern I always wish to avoid. Feeling those frequent low-grade, lower belly aches, and sometimes feeling simultaneously heavy and like a giant airy balloon resides in my midsection. It’s most noticeable two to three hours after a meal, when the food has left my stomach and reached my small intestine, and around the time I’m either about to begin or am in the first few miles of my daily run or workout. 

Not so enjoyable.

This used to be my norm. It used to be so much my norm that if it were just these mild symptoms, I wouldn’t have noticed it  or done anything about it at all. I wasn’t quite as in tune with my body then, you could say. But then it became chronic. And got a lot worse before I figured out, with help, how to make the sour, painful digestion situation better.

So when you come to me and say, “I can’t believe I’m telling you this,” well, I know what you’re talking about and it’s not something that should be hush hush or shameful — at least not when you’re talking to a nutritionist. 

In the interest of providing some guidance before you start removing random foods, purchasing specialty digestive products or just holding your belly and whimpering / running to the bathroom, here’s one quick tip to improve digestion for you. 

Try One Simple Shift

It’s a shift that worked for me the last couple weeks as I switched from eating more cold/raw summer meals to putting those same foods in meals and gently cooking them.

That’s right. That’s the shift. 

Just switch to eating all your meals warm and gently cooked. 

It’s simple but especially in the end-of-summer warm days, you might have to remind yourself daily, if not with every meal, to just heat everything up. I don’t heat up some foods, and eat others raw, like including a side salad with a meal. Warm all of it up. Do a quick 30 second to 1 minute sauté of your salad ingredients in your vinaigrette in a sauté pan, if that’s easiest. Oh, and chew it all well.

Think of your digestive ability like a campfire. Too hot and everything burns up and gets singed too quickly, like that marshmallow or hot dog you’re roasting. Too cold and nothing really cooks at all. It just smolders along half-heartedly. That smoldering is what we’re trying to avoid here, since it’s most common when you struggle with symptoms of the lower GI.

If you’re interested in more simple digestion shifts, I wrote a mini-guide for improved digestion featuring no products, special foods, or diets which you can download. Or check out the last few blog articles on improving digestion for more ideas.