From Unexpected Diagnosis to Lifestyle of Wellness

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Food lover and crazy dog mom, Kelsey Stevenson, hails from the great state of Michigan. Now living in Chicago and working at Northwestern University, she continues on her journey to a healthy, balanced life. Kelsey's aims to use her passion for all things food and fitness to help others develop a lifestyle of wellness.

It’s wild to think the thing that changed the way I think about health, fitness, and wellness was Instagram.  

In this day and age, people constantly preach the negative aspects of technology and social media – the way it makes us act and feel, the way it affects our attention span, the way it affects our communication abilities – all of which are true, to some extent. Social media, specifically, can drive down our self-esteem and often allows people to hide behind a keyboard and bring down others. 

Despite all of this, there is a way to use social media in a positive, uplifting, and powerful way. It has opened me up to a whole new world of health and wellness (and positivity!) I had never known before.

For some background, in high school I was a runner; I was on both the cross country and track teams. On top of that, my metabolism was at an all-time high. I was eating carbs on carbs on carbs. Nearly every meal had bread and cheese and very few had vegetables. At the time, I never noticed weight gain or major changes in my body. I was young and I was active (what more could you want?!). 

Around the age of 19 I started having stomach aches and pains regularly after meals, however I’d rarely changed anything about my diet in years. At first, I thought I was developing a gluten allergy (nooooooooo!), so I removed gluten from my diet for a few weeks and saw no improvement. For months I continued to deal with stomach pain, hoping it would just go away.

Eventually, when mild stomach pain turned into severe stomach pain, extreme bloating, and regular vomiting, it became too much to put up with on a daily basis. I set up an appointment with my doctor who then set up multiple blood tests, x-rays, and more. I was eventually referred to a gastroenterologist. I’ll spare you the details, but after further testing I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.

This diagnosis caused me to completely rethink the way I approach health and wellness. Crohn’s Disease is different for every person. Fortunately, my case is on the milder side, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to pay close attention to what I put in my body or that I don’t still have issues to this day. I looked for the “easy way out” at first. I wanted my doctor to tell me exactly what to eat and what not to eat so I could instantly feel better. Unfortunately, that’s not at all how it works. 

I went through so many different phases of “healthy eating.” First, I thought I just needed to buy everything plastered with the words gluten-free, low-fat, low-carb, zero calories, etc. I also paid way too much attention to nutrition labels. 

It was around this time when I started following various health, wellness, and fitness accounts on Instagram. I’m not talking about accounts telling you how to get your butt as big as possible or how to count macros, but accounts talking about balance and food freedom and wellness. There is often so much negativity and cruelty on social media, yet this community of people across the country (and world!) advocating for healthy lifestyles was so incredibly positive and inspiring. I noticed everyone posting on each other’s photos in such encouraging, kind, and supportive ways. It was so refreshing. 

I realized many of these people were eating all of the things I loved, while still fueling their bodies with healthy food. It was about fueling yourbody and making sure youfeel good. Not every person on every account was eating the same thing or doing the same workout. I was simply inspired by accounts written by women who knew the importance of turning wellness into a lifestyle. It was no longer about the number of calories, or balancing carbs vs. fiber vs. protein, or forcing myself to eat “healthy” foods I didn’t even really like. It was about whatI was putting in my body and how I was treating my body, and more importantly, my soul. I now knew exactly what was going in my body, and I was able to better manage my Crohn’s Disease and my overall health. I was happier. I felt as though “wellness”, what once seemed an unattainable concept, was now a central part of my life. 

The best part is, because my body is now balanced in a healthy, sustainable way, I can eat many of the things I love again! The most important thing I’ve learned in the past five or six years is a healthy life doesn’t start and end with food. There are so many other pieces at play when you develop a lifestyle of health, fitness, and wellness. It’s all about finding what works for YOU.   

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