When Michelle Retik was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis she began to work on changing herself and her body from the inside out. She healed herself through diet and now owns a popular grain-free and refined sugar free bake shop in New Jersey, Squirrel & The Bee. As the new school year approaches, she believes there’s an opportunity to start anew for all of us if we take the time to examine our priorities, consider how we may nourish our bodies from the inside out and build healthy, new routines.
I seriously am one of those giddy moms riding on the Staples shopping cart to mark the back-to-school season. Why, you ask? Because the back-to-school season for me means we’re creating a new routine. And I love routine.
As opposed to Jan. 1, I use the start of the school year to make my “resolutions.” When the start of the new school year comes around, with new shoes, new pencils and the chance to clear away summer’s sand and carefree days, I think about what I’d like to do better and how I’d like to reframe my day-to-day. What would I like to improve, or change, in the routines of my life? What can I do better for myself and for those around me—my husband, my children, my friends and my family?
So when I confess that year after year, near the top of my list, I used to always resolve to lose weight, there’s no doubt I’m not alone, right? (Right above that, I always resolve to try to have more patience, especially with my children).
But, this year, I have decided that my weight, how I look and my clothing are not really the issues that need resolving. Many of us—women especially—are so focused on the scale that we are missing what really matters: the inside. What do I mean when I say the “inside”? Not the cliché that you are imagining, though being warm and kind and loving are hugely important. No, I mean really the inside—your body and your health.
Being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis
Let me digress here for a moment. In 2011, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. Back then I knew a few people who suffered from UC, but I really knew nothing at all about the disease. It’s pretty awful.
At the time of diagnosis, my favorite jeans fit great—and then not at all—as my weight plummeted over the course of only a few weeks; I lost almost 20 pounds and bottomed out weighing a mere 82 pounds. I was hearing about my children’s days through the bathroom door: the bathroom was my new home. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep and I looked like crap. (Yes, you actually can be too thin!) I was cranky and irritable, sad and worried, and desperate to feel better. It was hard to be kind and warm and loving when I felt horrible and depressed and scared. I needed my “inside” to get better.
I tried all the conventional treatments. I followed all of the doctor’s instructions: lots of pills, infusion treatments at the hospital, staying near a bathroom at all times. But nothing worked. Those were the worst days of my life.
One of the hardest things for me to deal with was the loss of control over my own “self.” We all need some level of control in our lives and I had none. So I did the only thing that was within my control at the time: I researched. I read, discussed and absorbed as much information as I could about my disease and my body on the inside. I started thinking about what made sense and I made changes—against the advice of my doctor.
My doctor said changing my diet would have no effect on my disease. But I believed and proved otherwise. I changed my health for the better, mainly by changing what I was putting inside my body. You know, a you are what you eat kind of thing. By going grain-free, dairy-free and refined-sugar free, I am now free of UC symptoms!
“One of the best adventures of my life…”
Fast forward from my diagnosis and all sorts of unpleasant treatments, to where I am today. I operate a grain-free bake shop in my hometown, and I love it. Squirrel & The Bee has helped me help others. Every day, I have the opportunity to share my passion for healthy food while promoting a grain-free, dairy-free and refined-sugar-free lifestyle. I tell anyone who will listen how important it is to eat well and take care of your body—on the inside! What started out simply as a way to help heal myself has turned into one of the best adventures of my life.
But what about the outside? I have gained back all of the 20 pounds I lost and about 10 more for cushioning (bye-bye favorite jeans!). For a long time, I was pretty unhappy about all of the extra weight and how I looked carrying it around. But losing that isn’t on my resolution list this year. I am thankful that I feel good and that my body is strong enough to let me work a ridiculously busy schedule without getting sick!
Instead, at the beginning of this new school year, I resolve to adopt some new routines: to exercise not for weight loss, but to keep my body feeling good on the inside. I hope to meditate, keep a gratitude journal and set aside time every day to take care of myself. If I can do that, I can hopefully achieve some more patience, be happier even when I’m having an off day, and maybe, just maybe, I might find a new pair of favorite jeans.
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