Hi, My name is Rafia, and I’m a Health Coach. Here is my Story.
By Rafia Kanji
I have not been healthy my entire life.
I spent the first 20 years of my life planning McDonalds and Tim Hortons runs, drinking multiple sugar-filled coffees a day and embracing so many unhealthy habits. I took my health for granted and translated skinny as healthy. I was about 20 years old when I began to feel sick. I gained about 6 dress sizes to my body weight in a span of a few months, I couldn’t sleep, I was anxious, losing hair and overall just not well. I knew something was wrong. Now let me put this into reality.
Over the course of 3 months I went from a size 0 to a size 8 or 10.
You can imagine the confusion and trauma my body was going through, both physically and emotionally. I had no idea what was going on and I knew that something was wrong. I felt so uncomfortable in my body and was dealing with so many health issues I’d never had.
Fast forward about 2 years of going from one doctor to another and one test to another; I was diagnosed with my first auto immune disease – hypothyroidism. While usually this causes weight gain, it had extreme effects on me. At the time I didn’t know why, but later I found out it was because of my allergy to gluten.
Upon starting treatment for my thyroid condition my life changed immediately and it was for the better. My weight started to go down progressively for the next 2-3 years. I never became my original tiny size, but I’ve managed to maintain an average healthy weight that I am comfortable in. My anxiety reduced greatly, and the biggest change was that I no longer felt fatigued or had days where my brain fog took over. All in all, my health was improving, but I was still having a lot of underlying stomach issues. Eventually I went to a doctor that performed an endoscopy on my intestine. This revealed that my gut was destroyed, and gluten was what was causing it.
I was Celiac.
To be honest, once you find out you’re Celiac, especially as an adult, eating gluten free isn’t easy. I didn’t listen to the dietary restrictions properly for about a year. I binged on pizza and beer and ate a lot more gluten than I should have. I woke up one day feeling horrible. I went into work and ended up puking in the bathroom and going home sick. I remember this moment so clearly because that is the day that I made the decision that I was never going to eat gluten again. But it took me a lot of binging to get there.
When I first cut gluten, I have to admit that after my first few months of being officially gluten free, I had never felt so healthy. My body was thriving. It was nourished and happy and it was finally receiving the nutrients it lacked. I was feeling healthy again and just enjoying all the new gluten free foods I’d found at different grocery stores; all the way from pop-tarts to bagels. I felt normal and I was at the peak of my health and I was overjoyed!
After about a year of eating gluten free, I started to feel sick AGAIN.
I know right?
Did you know that most of the mainstream gluten free food on the market is completely processed with chemicals and refined sugar? Well I didn’t, but my body did, and it didn’t like it at all! I couldn’t have a day without dips in blood sugar and I walked around with sugar pills as if I was diabetic. I thought I was eating well; sandwiches with “whole grains” and vegetable pasta stir-fries – the mainstream picture of a healthy diet.
But really, I was just putting sugar into my body left, right and center.
I’d slowly started to learn more about nutrition on my own and I was becoming a comfortable cook in my kitchen and loved getting creative with food. I started reading and learning a lot about the hidden sugars and chemicals in many store-bought foods. I went to a few different naturopaths, but ultimately my mother’s lessons came into my mind:
If I eat from real ingredients and cook from scratch, I will know exactly what I’m eating.
I went from eating out a lot, to eating at home and cooking all my meals. I felt great. I slowly started experimenting with different recipes and grains that weren’t gluten. And truth be told, I became obsessed with nutrition. I finally found a diet that worked for me. It was a really easy one too…
It was just real food!
Vegetables, fruits, saturated fats, proteins and fiber. I cut out starches and refined sugars and all of my health problems went away. Since then I’ve completely revamped by life. I removed all the processed foods from my pantry and life.
Today, I’m still always experimenting. I will always be gluten free, but I will never adhere to one diet type. Your body needs different things at different times. But more importantly than ever, I’ve created a lifestyle that works for me. It is different for everyone and it is all about finding what works for you.
But to quote Hippocrates “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Follow Raf on Instagram: @eatwithraf