Two Years!

I started my candida diet and lifestyle change exactly two years ago today – July 10, 2017. It’s so crazy to look back and to see the journey that has unfolded over the last two years. So much change, so much growth (literally the growth of a new life!), and I’ve even redefined my path and purpose. Most importantly: I’ve now gone TWO YEARS without another yeast infection!

Two years ago I decided I’d finally had enough. After years of constant, chronic (nearly monthly) infections, I took my health into my own hands and took a huge leap. I decided to go “all in” and do a full elimination/candida diet for 60 days. It started with eliminating almost everything and then slowly added some foods back in over time, though I was still pretty limited at the end of those 60 days. Those were some of the hardest days I’ve ever had. I cut out all refined sugar (and even natural sugars to start!), dairy, soy, alcohol, caffeine, legumes and most meat/seafood that I liked. (More on how I survived the cleanse phase of the 60 days here.) I struggled so much mentally and physically as I made my way through my cleanse, but by the time I got to the end, I was 60 days free of infections, I had clearer skin, less bloat, no canker sores (which had also been a common monthly occurrence), and I’d even lost some weight too.

I decided to keep going! I stuck with the diet, or a modified version of it, for nearly 8 months, until I found out I was pregnant in March of 2018. I’d enjoyed the occasional bites of cheese or glass of wine in that time, but for the most part was the healthiest I’d ever been going into my pregnancy. I was physically active, eating clean, and feeling great. But then the pregnancy hormones hit and it felt like everything changed.

In this period where I felt I needed to be the healthiest I could be while supporting the growth of a new life, I found the smell or sight of most vegetables to be nauseating. I couldn’t really eat much lean protein as I’d been having lately either. I was SOOOO tired. I was so nauseous most nights that I didn’t even eat dinner, and would wake up to enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the middle of the night. I found that eating carbs, cheese, and let’s be honest–sugar, made me feel better while I felt so tired and sick. It went against everything I had been about for the last 7+ months. But weirdly enough I didn’t feel any adverse affects. Was it because I’d been so healthy before pregnancy? Was it pregnancy hormones? I have no idea. But I decided to not be so hard on myself and to enjoy the foods that I could.

I struggled a lot with watching my body grow near the start of my pregnancy. I had been in the best shape of my life. I had previously been so out of control of my body for so long while I was sick, and finally had regained that control over my own body, only to now feel completely out of control once again. It took me quite a few months to start to really love watching and feeling all the changes in and to my body. It took a lot of therapy, positive self-talk and self-love to get to that place, but eventually I really did start to love my ever-changing pregnant body.

In November 2018, I gave birth to a beautiful 7 lb baby girl through a gruelingly long (30+ hours) natural, drug-free birth. The amount of strength and focus that took was unbelievable. I am still in awe of what my body was able to accomplish.

Since then, it’s been such a trip watching how my body continues to change to support my baby’s growing body. I nursed her exclusively for 5 months before starting to introduce solids, and still have yet to give her any formula or milk other than what my body produces. That feels so amazing. Now we’re nearly 8 months postpartum. My body hasn’t “bounced back” — but why should it? I’m not the same person, and it’s not the same body that it was before pregnancy. I have grown, birthed and sustained life with this body. I feel incredibly changed by motherhood: physically, mentally, emotionally. I am a different person now. My body reflects that, and that’s ok.

As this all unfolded, I continued to document my candida, health and pregnancy journey on Instagram and have been humbled and amazed by the people and connections I’ve made throughout these last two years. What started as a little personal space to track my candida journey has turned into a whole new life path for me.

In March 2019 I decided to take a leap of faith and enrolled in a year-long program with Institute of Integrative Nutrition to become certified as a holistic health coach. I am LOVING my schoolwork. It’s been the best thing to pull me out of the pregnant/postpartum fog that I feel like I’ve been living in. I am learning so much about gut health, nutrition, living with intention and looking at your health in a holistic way — not just at the foods you eat, but at your spirituality, career, physical activity, relationships and more all as things that “nourish” you.

None of this was where I envisioned my candida journey to go. But that’s life! Two years ago, I started this journey feeling so alone. I was looking for someone who had been through something similar — someone who could lend an ear, or a helping hand, as I tried to navigate my way back to some semblance of health once again. And what I found was a whole community of thousands of people who have lifted me up, inspired me, come to ME for advice and guidance, and who have ultimately shown me that there is a need for health coaching in this area. I now plan to start a coaching practice with one-on-one and group offerings, to help others who have or are currently struggling like I was with feminine health issues, candida, gut health and more. I also want to help new moms and pregnant women navigate the often complicated emotions that come during those times. I want to use my own experiences and new knowledge from IIN to help others as much as I can.

And my journey hasn’t stopped. While I’m two years out from having a yeast infection, I know that my sugar intake has started to increase, that I could be making more meals at home or prepping better for the week on Sundays. I could be going to more yoga classes, going on more hikes, and trying to find better ways to balance physical activity with the exhaustion of motherhood. Last month I finally got my first postpartum period, and with it came my first cold, a bad rash on my neck and some digestive issues — all clearly linked to Candida. I know now that those special pregnancy hormones that allowed me to stray a bit from my anti-candida lifestyle are waning, and I need to start to take better care of myself. While I’m not going to do any sort of strict elimination diet to reset my gut while currently nursing, I CAN start to take some steps to better my gut health. I’m asked all the time if I “healed my candida” – and the truth is, it’s a journey, and a choice that needs to be made everyday to live as healthy and with as much intention as I can.

So I hope you’ll continue to join me on this journey! It’s meant the world to me to have you here, and I look forward to seeing what new magical stuff unfolds in the next two years.

xo

Shannon

PS… some photos of me (and this crazy changing body) over the last two years…