Looking at me on any given day, you’ll see me with a smile on my face, makeup done, and a cute outfit. Maybe some days I look a little under the weather or tired. But, when I walk into a meeting or a party or an event, no one can guess by looking at me that I am suffering from an invisible illness, Crohn’s Disease.
It’s crazy how much can be happening inside while outside you look fine. Lifting the veil on the fact that you can still be sick while not looking it, is something I’ve felt strongly about since my diagnosis. If you have a physical injury or a visible illness, others have visual “proof” of what you are going through. When you have an invisible illness, life is full of people commenting “well you don’t look sick”. I try and take that as a complement but it’s a double edged sword. I don’t want people to think I look the way I feel but somehow it makes me feel less validated and frustrated. I feel like if people can’t see my struggle they don’t expect me to be struggling so I need to live up to that standard.
If I don’t look sick than my mission is to feel that way. My mission is to live my best life and accomplish as much as i can even though I have Crohn’s Disease. That means traveling, being active, having a family, and not letting my symptoms hold me back. Dehydration is something that impacts me regularly. When I am having a Crohn’s flare it is really easy for me to become super dehydrated and that can feel so miserable and be downright dangerous. I already have to slow down sometimes because of symptoms that are out of my control, and I am NOT going to let dehydration be one of them. Controlling what you can is key. I carry around DripDrop in my purse everyday that way I can proactively handle the signs of dehydration and if it gets to the point of dehydration I can start treating myself immediately instead of potentially having to take a trip to the ER.
I was always scared of doing anything that would risk me becoming dehydrated because I knew my body’s situation was already fighting against me. It was hard to workout or go hiking because I would feel worse afterwards instead of better an energized. Even traveling became such an anxiety trigger for me because I knew dehydration would inevitably become and issue. DripDrop is like my little safety packet that I can have with me all the times for when I need it.
As the control freak I am, I want to make sure I am managing as many aspects of my illness that I can. There is only so much you can do to control your insides though. I can put on makeup and do my hair to make myself look outwardly “well”, but what is the solution for the inside? You can change what you are putting in your body, but with Crohn’s symptoms you are constantly fighting dehydration. Sometimes it feels like it doesn’t matter what you are putting into your body because you feel so miserable either way. I can’t control what foods my body is going to dislike on any given day, but I can control my hydration levels. Being able to have control over something so important for my body is a huge win.
I am thankful that there is a company out there that saw the importance of dehydration relief and committed to making a difference in people’s lives with their products. DripDrop is not only helping people, like me, with chronic illnesses. Their products are helping first responders, military personnel, and competitive athletes. These are all situations where they don’t have time to deal with dehydration. By giving them the power to take control of their dehydration relief, it gives them the power to focus on the missions they are working towards without skipping a beat or having their bodies hold them back. That is how I feel by using DripDrop. I can focus on my mission, instead of focusing on symptoms.
Everyone has a mission that they are working towards and I want to hear what yours is. For every social media post that you tag with #SticktoYourMission, DripDrop will donate one DripDrop stick to humanitarian aid. By sharing your mission you are helping DripDrop drive their mission of providing dehydration relief across the world.
If you haven’t read my post yet about my journey to more anti-inflammatory eating, definitely do so. It was the launching point for my new experimental dive into cooking, which you may have seen on my Instagram stories. While I’m not a total pro, yet, I’m really proud of how far I have come in the cooking game.
I’ve been working with Sue Levy, from Savory Living, on little behavior changes that I can implement in my life that can make a big impact on my health. I’ve been in tune with my body and what feels good for me, so that I can actually customize what I’m eating in order to feel the best I can. Sue has been helping to walk me through these little changes and helping me learn how to cook so that I can own the knowledge of what I’m eating. The whole program is online and takes less than an hour or so a week so it was easy for me to add into my already crazy schedule. Sue and I can communicate through the website directly so it is super efficient and she can give me advice and direction as I am working through recipes and new foods, day by day.
Throughout these first few weeks so far, I have gained a lot of confidence in my cooking abilities for the first time in my life and I have realized how delicious the food I’m able to make. It took me 27 years to take an interest in cooking because it took me until now to have someone explain it to me in a way that clicked with my brain.
Sue introduced me to this really cool concept called flavor balancing. It’s all about adding elements to your dish that are acidic, sweet, salty, and bitter until it tastes like a balanced and artful combination. This really demystified things for me because it reminded me of any other artful practice like interior design or fashion. It is all about balancing all of the elements of a room or an outfit so that one piece doesn’t overpower another. If you find you are decorating a room with a lot of heavy pieces, you need to add in some airy, textural accessories to balance it out. That is the same with food.
This was a crazy realization for me to the point that I called my mom to explain how making dinner was like designing a room. The confidence built since I felt like I had almost a secret formula that would make my food taste good. After I got the flavor balancing concept down, Sue gave me her holy grail of flavor balancing…. Her global cuisine flavor chart which basically teaches you what to balance to create any type of flavor you are craving. For example, if you want to make something with a Greek flavor profile, her guide literally lists exactly the different items you can mix from each flavor category to create a perfect dish. It also tells you exactly what proteins, fats, veggies, and herbs to add in. It is basically a formula that you can’t mess up for making great tasting dishes. She also has a lot of other guides that are formulated in this same way, like her guide to making your own vinaigrette at home which, in case you were wondering, I totally nailed. There are also videos that you can follow along to, so really, I couldn’t mess this up.
I just can’t fathom that it took me so long to learn to look at cooking this way but I am so thankful that I finally “get it”. It has also made my grocery shopping and meal planning so much easier. A little hack on how I’ve been planning out meals lately is, I pick a flavor profile that I want to focus on that week and I buy the herbs, vegetables, protein, and fat that fit with that “formula”. It’s nice because I can mix and match the ingredients, I know that they actually go together, and I can create different meals with the same core ingredients. This has actually saved us money because before I would find a random recipe online, buy all of the ingredients, use them once, and they’d go bad. Now I’m actually using our food to its full potential and appreciating the many ways in which I can incorporate it into a meal.
Here is an example… last week we were in the mood for some French flavors so we stocked our house with the essentials.
Now that I’m experimenting more with flavors, I’m realizing what I like, as well as new combinations. I improvised a meal to surprise Matt the other night - scallops pan seared in butter/garlic and seasoned with parsley, salt, pepper, lemon. I baked asparagus and seasoned it with salt, pepper, and some parmesan cheese on top. I’m learning that no matter what the flavor profile, I pretty much like parmesan and garlic with almost everything. The meal was a hit and I was, not going to lie, super impressed with myself.
I’m going to continue to share these meals I am making…. Like tonight’s, shrimp scampi with broccoli and gluten free red lentil pasta. I’m not sharing to show off, okay maybe I am a little, but I love sharing how easy these concepts are and how I’ve been implementing them into my life. I wish I would have had this “I get it” moment years ago so I’m shouting it out to everyone I know!
This was only the second session of the program and I just started the third this past week. Each session is teaching me new skills to build on top of each other. This week I’m working on crowding my diet with greens and learning how to cook said greens properly. This is a must needed skill for IBD sufferers because leafy green veggies can be hard to handle if they aren’t cooked. As I’m adding onto my skills in the kitchen, not only am I feeling more confident but I am feeling better physically and mentally, and I’m saving money.
I was on the phone with Sue on Saturday raving about all of these things she has taught me. We chatted for almost an hour about this and she just is a wealth of knowledge about these tips to create lifestyle habits that support the best you. I’m SO excited, because she offered to get on a 20 minute call with any Crohnically Blonde readers who are in need of some of some of these personalized tips. She is offering to do this totally for free which is incredible! Shoot me and email or message on Instagram if you want to schedule a call with her and I can send you her link to do so! If you do chat with her I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on her tips and the passion she has about helping others!
Stay tuned for more of my cooking adventures…..
Blonde babe. Maryland native. Crohn's crushing puppy mother to two sweet rescues.
Welcome to my unfiltered commentary on crushing chronic illness in your 20's and everything that goes along with that.