Forty. I'm about to turn forty.I have been living in this world for forty years. Until now, I've always had the impression that forty was old. As in elderly. I was sure that if I didn't do something before I turned forty, I would never do it. I'd be too old and tired and achy. I'd have to start camping out in a rocker, knitting. I'd have to give up hopes and dreams and prepare for death.
Okay, my anticipation of this age may have been a little on the dramatic side. But I have come to a strange but relieving conclusion about turning forty. I'm okay with it. Not only am I okay with it, I can honestly say things are better now than when I was thirty. Or twenty. Or even ten!
How about an explanation?
I have a standard answer I save for the conversations that inevitably lead to the question "Why in the world do you have such a restrictive diet? Why are you so careful about stress, food and exercise?"
Well, the best way to put it is: my body hates me.
Most people don't struggle with this conflict to the degree I do. But then again, you don't hear most 40-year-olds saying that they feel better than they did at 30, 20 or even 10. But I absolutely do. I guess sometimes we get things backward.
This is a picture of me with my sisters (I'm the oldest sitting on the far right) when I was almost ten. (Please disregard the hair. It was 1985 and my mother expected sons.)Most people don't remember feeling too poorly when they were ten. But to be honest, I'm not sure this nearly ten-year-old knew any better. I'd already been fighting asthma and allergies for as long as I could remember. When I was ten, I was hospitalized for a week with an asthma attack. I took it in stride. It was the first time I'd had a T.V. all to myself, after all. And you don't spend too much time contemplating your mortality when you're ten. But it was the start of a long series of autoimmune issues. In those days, you took daily medicine and steroids for asthma. I'm not saying they didn't help keep me alive, but there are reasons why we no longer treat this condition this way.
Fast forward ten years. Ten long years of trying to keep my weight under control though I wasn't eating any more or exercising any less than anyone else in my family or circle of friends. I got into the habit of blaming myself between extreme diets. Obviously, there was something wrong with me. Obviously, I had no self-control and I must be doing something to cause my problems.So at twenty, I added emotional problems to my growing list of issues. By now, it was asthma, allergies, IBD and migraine headaches. I was hospitalized twice when I was nearing the age of twenty because I had caught a stomach bug and my body completely overreacted. And for every condition I was diagnosed with, a long list of prescriptions was the only answer I was given. No matter that my body overreacted to the medicine as much as it overreacted to a stomach bug. I went off the meds after dealing with every side effect known to man.This was the first time I asked God if I was going to die. I felt like I would both times.
Midway on my way from 20 to 30 I faced a new hurdle. I knew I was meant to be a mother. I was convinced there were four little ones - two boys, two girls - who needed me to be their mom. Problem was, my body didn't agree. I added PCOS to the list of body malfunctions and got fed up enough to do more than starve myself and exercise obsessively.
My research in order to get pregnant was the first major step I took toward becoming healthy. My trail led to a simple little unassuming book called "Fertility Foods" by Dr. Jeremy Groll. It changed my life. I lost weight as I learned to eat less carbs and more protein. To my joy, my prayers were answered with a baby girl at the age of 26.
Followed by a boy. And another girl. And another boy.
Pregnancy and childbirth took a toll on me. Through my early thirties, I probably felt the worst I have in my life. The hormonal issues I had with PCOS spun out of control. I couldn't control my weight. I felt old and tired and desperate.
I don't regret a single one of my children, by the way. Worth it.
But as our family reached completion, I reached the end of my ability to deal with my stubborn, uncooperative body. I needed ANSWERS. So I went back to researching. Slowly over the next few years, God brought answers in the form of people who taught me how to think differently. How to go outside the box of the normal and do things that would heal my body and bring a measure of peace.
I stopped eating wheat, sugar, anything with chemicals or preservatives, and inflammation drastically reduced in my body. I learned to deal better with stress, and with the help of the Holy Spirit I addressed my wrong thinking and let him begin to change me from the heart. I had the blessing of meeting a caring integrative doctor who treated my then undiagnosed thyroid problem with a natural form of gentle thyroid medicine that made me feel like a completely different person. And finally, not even a year ago, I met a wonderful doctor I only spent 15 minutes with who told me to consider the PCOS factor again. And a lot of new research, the loss of forty pounds and six months later, I cannot imagine a time in my life I have ever felt better.
And I'm forty. It took me forty years to figure out how to live at peace with this body. But it was possible. Persistence paid off.
So maybe I'm living life backward. Or maybe God intends for all of us to grow into our bodies and our minds and feel like 40 is way better than 30 or 20 or 10. Either way, I feel responsible to share this story and help others find their way. I know better than anyone that you don't have to live in survival mode with a body that hates you. There are answers. They just take a little hard work, persistence and faith to accomplish. And the truth is, I couldn't complete the jobs God wants me to do when I was in that survival mode. So this healing is giving him glory. That's what it's all about, after all.
So all that being said, I'm glad to be forty. I wouldn't go back even if I could. I know there will be new challenges ahead, but I'm ready.
Thank you Lord, for forty years of life you gave me to serve you. I give you the rest of my days and ask you to use my story to inspire others to pursue peace in their bodies.