I accidentally stumbled on a really random podcast this morning where these women were talking about “Wellness Warriors” and their views on the messages they share. Ironically, I stumbled on the podcast because the image of one of the girls reminded me of the well-known wellness warrior Jess Ainscough.
They had this interesting perception of shame around health, which I had not heard before. That ultimately by saying to women that they need to eat healthily and take responsibility for their health, that this need to control the disease is inherently bad. That by pushing this message, women feel a sense of shame for not living up to an image of being healthy. They also expressed that it made women feel like they simply need to do more and more to feel healthy. Just a caveat: these women don’t believe that disease is something that is under our control but rather that it just happens and has no boundaries and it can happen to you, whether you are healthy or not.
Their view is that we would feel a sense of personal blame for having endometriosis or any other condition because we “didn’t do enough” or “weren’t healthy enough”.
There have certainly been moments when I have felt a need to do more and more or where I have questioned this idea of trying to be this “uber-healthy” person and that in itself causes a type of anxiety, which thereby actually makes us feel less healthy. (read here and here)
I do have a few struggles with their views and I would be hugely curious to hear your perceptions on all of this.
The need for control
I think for me, having a feeling of control over endometriosis was refreshing. I wanted to have control. I wanted to know that there was something I could actually do to feel better. I had never had anything offered to me before that gave me any sense of security or comfort in knowing that I could make my endo symptoms better or worse. I would get all of these random endo flare-ups and there was never a logical reason why and it was incredibly frustrating to be told over and over again… “there is nothing else we can offer you, Melissa”.
With having endometriosis, we are often ignored by doctors for years without getting a proper diagnosis, we are often left to simply try to deal with the pain and the symptoms and I think owning what we have and working with it, really helps us actually feel better. I found that it helped me to know that I could try things, that there were foods that were making things worse and that there were supplements, treatments and techniques that I could try and experiment with that could help. It was giving me hope and to keep searching and trying things on my journey. Some would work and some wouldn’t but doing nothing felt worse. Do you agree?
What empowerment means to us
I guess to some people looking at our diet and our lifestyle as something we need to change is something that we view as something hard, like an item on our “to-do” list. It becomes about “commitment” and “sticking to things”. There may be some feelings of shame around this I guess – like if you feel that you are “bad” for eating certain foods or that you didn’t “resist” something. I guess I can see this as making us feel worse and that we might shame ourselves if we aren’t “perfect”.
However, that has never been how I view all of this and the work I share. I personally believe that what we eat and how we treat our body and discovering more about our body empowers us in a way we had never been aware of before. It allows us to learn about how the body works and what it needs to feel well. It isn’t just about a “healthy diet and lifestyle” but truly digging into the mechanism of the body and what it means to make it work better. I guess, you could describe it like a mechanic, who wants to understand everything about how a car runs – all those intricate parts all working together to combine together. The same way expert car people will know what oil to use or what fuel gives you the most power etc, there are things we can eat, ways we can move, things we can do for ourselves and our body, which better serves us. It empowers us to better deal with endometriosis.
I am not talking about surface level things like taking a few supplements and cutting out some foods but actually understanding more about endometriosis, the responses it has in the body and harnessing what is available to us to better manage it. I really want to stress that this goes far beyond a simple healthy diet and moving your body. It is about really addressing the symptoms of endometriosis and how the body works.
The cool thing with it is that they are available to all of us. They are not restricted to those who can fly half-way across the world to have specialist surgery or some fancy new treatment but rather they are things which we can choose to incorporate as we feel ready to allow us to simply feel better with having endometriosis.
It therefore just makes sense to do them. We don’t do them because we have to. We do them because we choose to. Because we don’t want to be sick and tired and we don’t want to just lie around complaining of our pain but we would rather do something, than nothing at all.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you feel shame for not living up to some “healthy” version of yourself? Does it make you feel better or worse in attempting to incorporate my suggestions?
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Hugs sweetheart. One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn is that trying hard and trying to be perfect is often worse for us than simply letting things go and doing the best we can with what we have 🙂
I can definitely relate to this. I am just recently diagnosed with endo, stage 4 with an endometrioma the size of a shoe that completely destroyed my left ovary. I have been doing all that I can to live a healthy lifestyle for over a decade. I have had issues of course but feel like I’ve managed pretty well up until a few years ago when my health had really started to decline and nobody could figure out why. I was dismissed by doctors for almost 20 years. I have adrenal PCOS, hypothyroidism and thought that was the main source of my problems. I finally got an ultrasound and they found the endometrioma. My first thought after the endo diagnosis was that I had failed. I had tried so hard to do everything right, to fix myself, but I was so much worse off than I had ever imagined. I have had a tough time accepting that unlike all the health warriors I follow I can’t fix myself. I’m stubborn and am generally unstoppable when I set my mind to something, so this has been a unique learning opportunity for me to admit I’m not fully in control but to take pride in doing the best I can to help my situation. As you say, Melissa, I can choose my mindset!
It is such a valid point and I touched on it a while ago in a blog about the Gerson Institue protocol. My question was all around whether or not we get results, just because we are being so strict that we believe in our mind that we deserve to get results. The mind is super powerful and I do think there is something to that too – we want to be “good girls” with our diet and if we “stray” then we don’t deserve to be pain-free. I can say that I am by no means “strict” but I can see the tricky mindset around all of that.
Here are some articles I have written which expand on this idea a little more:
Is eating healthy a form of religion?http://endoempowered.com/is-eating-healthy-like-a-new-form-of-religion-do-we-have-to-believe-to-get-it-are-we-just-strange-for-doing-it/
Is your routine a burden or a blessing?
This one is an oldie but so powerful:
Your thoughts on diet and endo
I feel in the middle of this debate. On one hand I definitely agree that knowing there are diet and lifestyle options that MAY work for you gives me hope, but I find it frustrating in other support groups that just push AIP as the only answer. They basically make you feel like if you’re not following a super strict diet and spending your life cooking all your own meals that you’re not taking care of yourself and your pain is therefore your own fault and you only have yourself to blame. Obviously this feeling would not lower stress and in my case with lupus, triggers a flare. Not to mention that a lot of the AIP recipes have high estrogen foods, so just following that obviously isn’t the only answer.
Again, I dont get that feeling here, but I can see where some women would get that impression. I’ve left other support groups for that very reason.
Totally. Pain is just a body screaming for attention to look after it and love it a little more 🙂
It’s not any sort of shame that makes me want to be healthier, I just don’t want to live with that much pain if I can help it! I guess I should say that I don’t necessarily want to be healthier, I just want to have less pain but these two things often go hand in hand.
Thank you sweetheart. I am so happy I am able to help. So happy you find it empowering 🙂
I think it’s definitely as you say empowering to know that there is something I can do to help make the pain something I don’t always have to live with, to try and live actually live again. I’ve been really grateful for all your help Melissa it’s made such a huge difference to my life.
I am glad it is motivation for you Fara 🙂
Yes i agree with your article.. And silently it is motivate me again to stay healhty
Thank you melissa