It has been roughly a year since I started writing publicly about trying to manage chronic illness with diet and the whole wellness malarky - and boy, a lot has changed.
As many of my readers know, when my health reached its lowest point, I turned in desperation towards using food as medicine. Overnight (and with a lot of self-sabotage along the way) I cut out meat, dairy, gluten, refined sugar, high histamine food and mainly consumed green juices and soups.
It took about three months, but my digestion started to improve, I had enough energy to get out of bed, and my histamine issues started to slowly start fizzing a little bit less. Within six months I felt so much better (not "well", but well enough to think that my life may have a future outside of bed) and had started to gain a following on Instagram, the tool I had been using as a diary when I first started making all these changes.
The improvements felt so wonderful, so dramatic, so shocking, that I couldn't stop myself from shouting about it. Who knew that food could help where all the medications had failed? I became obsessed with the "best" foods, micronutrient contents, specific properties and the latest superfood fads that I read about.
The problem with blogs and social media is that it can become all-encompassing. Of course, without them I would not have been able to really start thinking about experimenting with things on my own, but even as a (somewhat) rational, grounded and science-focussed person, I often found myself getting drawn into things in a way that surprised me.
We get a lot of our information from other people going through similar things, and while the inspiration and support is certainly valuable and important, we also have to take it for what it is. The wellness backlash that is happening at the moment against people like Belle Gibson and The Food Babe shows just how far some of this is all going, and how easy it is to get drawn into a web of inaccurate and possibly dangerous mis-information.
I love sharing my story with everyone, whether it be daily on my Instagram or in longer pieces on my blog. But I think it's important for people to remember that I'm not a doctor, a nutritionist or a trained anything. I share my experiences and mine alone. If lessons that I have learned and my struggles help other people not feel so alone, that is great, but I'm always worried that people will try things that I have tried and end up hurting themselves because we are different people. Blogs and articles written about me last year focussed on the fact that I gave up medication in favour of natural solutions. But often left out that it's because they didn't work for me. I didn't have a choice, I'm super sensitive to meds, and my choice had nothing to do with a fear or scorn of the medical field (which, yes, has many problems), and was not, as often portrayed a miracle cure all. I probably didn't do enough at the time to be more careful about the way I was talking about what I was doing. But it's because I was so excited about the changes.
There has also been a pressure to conform to certain ways of eating. This is definitely unhealthy, as we all need different diets, different ways of exercise and different ways of relaxing. Eating vegan, high carb low fat, paleo, whatever, and being judgemental, and cult-like about it (which unfortunately social media is prone to) can be dangerous, especially for the large number of young teens that I see. I have spoken to many fellow Instagrammers about this and know I'm not the only one that feels this way, and I'm hoping that more and more people do start speaking up.
I think we all need to remember that aspirational lifestyle sells. Gorgeous girls in gorgeous clothes, looking happy and loving life sells. This is a lifestyle that most people want to achieve, but the reality is most of us won't. Drinking that green juice may be great for you, but bets are it's not going to be life changing. It was for me for a bit, but it ran its course. It's not going to change the structure of my collagen. I dabbled with raw veganism for a few days (until my gut started screaming at me to stop) because (I'm ashamed to say) I bought into the shiny, happy lifestyle and the pseudoscience touted by certain bloggers. It's so easy to get caught up in this world, especially when you're unwell and just want to feel better. We do not share our whole lives on social media, so the image that we get of anyone is always going to be skewed towards the positive (especially if their personal brand is their livelihood, something that most of us forget).
So, yes. I've learned a lot in the last year. And while part of me is frustrated at how much I bought into certain aspects of the wellness industry and wanted to shout from the rooftops about how much diet was changing my life, I also recognise that's where I was at the time and that's what was right for me. Now, I'm more aware of myself, of my body, and the industry. I'm not denying that what we eat plays a huge role in how we feel and without constant attention to my diet, I do believe I'd be a lot more unwell than I am. I just think things have got a bit out of hand and we all need to be a bit more careful, honest and rational when we talk about our health.