It was a week before my trip to Europe for my brother's wedding and I was sitting in the doctor's room waiting for the verdict - I had noticed this strange intermittent burning pain in my abdomen for the past two weeks and I was beginning to get worried. But I was not prepared for what he said next: "There is nothing physiologically wrong with you. I think it's just stress."
I am a firm believer that many ailments and illnesses are manifestations of our stress and inner thought processes so the concept of stress being a cause for illness was not new. But was it possible for me? I hadn't been stressed for years!
Over the course of my life I have bounced between both ends of the spectrum of stress. I was a happy-go-lucky type kid who loved to be loud and have a good time. But I also put a lot pressure on myself. I expected great things of myself and often set absurd goals that I would then stress over.
This pattern continued for much of my life - a strange mix of being relaxed and confident in one situation and then stressed and over-the-top in the next - until I began my personal development journey in 2007. During this time I sorted a lot of my issues out and I became proud of who I was and what I could achieve. I stopped putting pressure on myself and just started enjoying life. I was happy.
So to be told by a doctor I was stressed was a big slap in the face.
A Lesson From Paleo: Pay Attention To Your Food
Looking back, I accepted the doctor's story of stress because it was easy. I was working in a very negative environment and I was organising my first overseas trip so it was easy to just say that I was stressed and maybe I was. But one thing that living a paleo lifestyle has helped me realise is that I need to listen to my own body and pay attention to what I am doing to it, both mentally and physically.
A perfect example occurred last Friday. Sophie and I decided to have a non-paleo dinner (that's right, I've managed to convince Sophie to go paleo too!) with some modern treats that we used to enjoy. We ate crumbed chicken breast with salad and finished with an after-dinner snack of some very smooth white chocolate. It was nice, if not a little sweet for my paleo-modified tastebuds. But then the headache came.
It happened two hours after dinner - a headache started slowly pounding behind my eyes and I immediately regretted the dinner had eaten. I do not get headaches very often but even so, in the past I would have shrugged it off as a just a random occurrence and continued on my merry way. Not anymore!
It wasn't a big leap to draw the conclusion that it was that sudden spike in carbs (mostly highly processed sugars) that had caused the headache but it was a big step forward for me.
My mind is now focused on everything I do to my body and is attuned to monitor the effects and adjust. This is something I have never done before and I like it.I never used to link my actions to what occurred in my body before, instead I generally accepted that things "just happened" in my body.
Migraines, eczema, stomach cramps, and asthma to name a few - I used to see these things as what I had to put up with, like these were failings of the body I was given for this life and there was nothing I could do about it. I was wrong.
Maybe some of the ailments in my life will always be there or perhaps I am predisposed to suffer things like asthma, or get a migraine once a year, or live with this poor excuse for red hair for the rest of my life. Maybe. But I now believe that I have a lot more control over these things than I ever used to.
Your Mental Diet Is Just As Important
It is not just the food we eat that can change our bodies, but our thoughts can too. Just like having a crap-laden meal of processed junk-food will leave your body feeling terrible so will a mental diet of negative thoughts, stress, and anxiety. These are negative energy sources and they are the equivalent of fast-food for our brain. They provide a short-term energy burst but have long-term negative side-effects.
Living a healthy and happy life requires a combination of eating well (I'm recommending paleo if you can't tell) and thinking well. The latter is often harder to achieve which is why I write so much about it.
Changing your thought pattern from negative to positive requires a lot of effort, self-awareness, and dedication but it can be done.
The good news is that once you start looking to make these positive changes then your will find that it snowballs from there. The first change is the hardest, but once you start you will find that momentum is on your side and things become easier. It's just a matter of taking those first few difficult steps.
For those looking to make any healthy change (diet, mental, or other) in in their life I recommend paying close attention to your actions, observing what you feed on (both physically and metaphorically), and listening to your body. Remember, it is never just doing something randomly - it is always responding to something you have already done.