My story

Hi!  My name is Fajr.

I'm a wife and a mother of three who's on a journey towards BETTER health.  I've tried almost every diet out there and no matter how committed I am, I always end up back where I started. One thing I've learned is that pushing myself towards BEST too quickly always results in a two steps forward, 10 steps back cycle. However, when I strive to be just a little bit BETTER today than I was yesterday, my efforts result in long term commitments.  I invite you to join me on a journey to BETTER health.  Let's work together in our pursuit to do BETTER everyday in order to create a more sustainable lifestyle and live the BEST possible life..

 

Life Happens

As I get older, I notice that everything about me is changing.  Those "how-low-can-you-go" dance moves are a thing of the past.  No more midnight movie premiers for me for I can hardly stay awake past 10:30.  And let's not even mention the muffin top.  Low rise jeans are just cruel! For years I attributed all of this as the price I had to pay for having children, working a demanding job, and simply getting older.  How wrong I was.  

On my 41st birthday, I delivered my third child.  It had been eight years since I had my last baby and although this was not my first rodeo, I sure felt like a new mother all over again.  My pregnancy wasn’t an easy one as I suffered with gestational diabetes and swelling that was so bad that my limbs reacted to touch like memory foam.  On top of that, it was one of the hottest summers on record here in Chicago.

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Within months after baby Mason was born, all of those "getting older" symptoms had taken a turn for the worse.  My joint pain in my hips had gotten so bad that I required crutches to get around.  I developed a severe case of alopecia areata (hair loss).  I lost ALL of my eyebrows, eyelashes, and most of my body hair. Even more devastating than that was the loss of the hair on my head. The only alternative I had was to wear a wig or shave it.  As you can see, I eventually chose the latter. There was something freeing and authentic about being bald. I immediately regained my confidence that had eluded me now for months.

Meanwhile, my symptoms continued to worsen.  I saw several doctors from the dermatologist to the orthopedic surgeon.  The diagnosis was always the same. Healthy.  So, other than the fact that I may need hip replacement surgery in a few years, and my hair may never grow back, and my belly issues were just “my” normal, I was a perfectly healthy 40 something wife and mother of 3.

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The epiphany

I was working out at my local gym and one of the trainers struck up a conversation with me.  I suppose my gleaming bald head intrigued him. I began sharing my story of declining health and how helpless I felt.  He asked what my doctors' advice had been and when I told him that the most they said was to lose weight and eat more fiber, he simply responded, “They lied.”  Have you ever felt yourself shrinking? I believed every diagnosis of "healthy" each doctor had given me. I trusted their expertise.  Yet just as sure as I am of my name, I knew the trainer was right.  Maybe they didn’t mean to “lie” but they certainly did not know how to uncover what was wrong with me. “Dr.” Trainer-Man had given me a hefty dose of logic medicine and with that, I began my journey.

Have you found that life always reminds you that there is something out their greater than yourself?  This force makes no mistakes and I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, whether we understand what that reason is or not.  I had worked in education for almost twenty years as both a teacher and a school administrator.  Although I had many more years ahead of me in my career, my husband and I made semi-abrupt decision that I would stay at home with the kids and put my career on hold, indefinitely.  Little did I know at the time that this decision would allow me the opportunity to do the research necessary to heal.

There was so much out there to learn.  I felt like I was getting high on information.  I couldn’t stop reading.  One idea really resinated with me. When your body is broken, it will tell you. Sometimes those messages will be subtle, like a tiny bald patch on my scalp or bloating after every meal.  It's only when those messages become loud and clear that we usually pay attention.  Much of my research led me to the idea that poor gut health could be at the root of my issues.  Of course I didn't think I had poor gut health.  Perhaps not great, but certainly not poor. I found an online program called Gut Thrive in Five (insert link here).  I had never done any kind of online program but I felt that this was what I had been searching for.  It basically guided me through a 10 week cleanse and diet overhaul.  In essence, I had to take more herbal supplements than I could name, switch to organic meats and produce, remove all processed foods, corn, wheat (gluten), soy, and sugar from my diet.  The only dairy I could eat was ghee (clarified butter) or grass-fed butter.  I know this sounds crazy but let me tell you, with all that was wrong with me, I was willing to try anything.  The results…

Yes ya’ll!  My hair began to grow back, my joint pain disappeared, my digestive system was near perfect, and I went from a size 10 to a size 4 while looking and feeling great!  It was like I had shed my old body and traded it in for a new improved model.  I was on cloud nine withe energy of a teenager.  I was feeling so good that I decided to share this new way of life and eating with my entire household.  Gone were the Doritos and sugary drinks.  No more Oreos and non-organic, grain fed meats.  I was a full-fledged Whole Foods shopper, and proud of it. It wasn’t the easiest adjustment for the wallet or the kids but their pallets quickly changed.  The husband is always looking for ways to do better and after witnessing my transformation he was eager to convert. 

Top left: April 2015, when I decided to shave my head.    Bottom left: September 2015 after my 10 week   cleanse, my hair hair began to regrow.  No more shaving.  Right: March 2016.  6 months hair growth.

Top left: April 2015, when I decided to shave my head.  

Bottom left: September 2015 after my 10 week   cleanse, my hair hair began to regrow.  No more shaving.

Right: March 2016.  6 months hair growth.

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What went wrong?

About six months later, my body started to revert to old habits. Let’s be real.  I started to revert to old habits.  I began eating foods that I knew didn’t serve my body well.  I wasn’t eating mindfully and I stopped my yoga practice and exercising.  Although I certainly wasn’t the person before Gut Thrive, I allowed many those great habits I had adopted to slowly fade away.

How did my body respond?  Weight gain, bloating, breakouts on my face, joint pain, and yes…hair loss.  This time, I decided to see a doctor that practiced Functional Medicine.  Functional practitioners focus on an individual patient’s root cause for disease and suffering.  They often use natural methods for healing as opposed to synthetic medications.  Western medicine was unable to meet my needs in the past and since Gut Thrive, who was led by a holistic nutritionist seemed to serve me well, this was the next logical step.

THEN THE BOMB DROPPED

After numerous tests, my doctor discovered that I had Lyme disease (insert link here).  I had no solid memory of getting bit by any tick and based off the results, I have had it for a long time.  Apparently Gut Thrive kept the disease at bay, forcing it to lay dormant while the clean eating and herbal supplements cleaned up the rest of my body.  Once Gut Thrive was over and I got lazy with my diet and wellness programs, it was safe for those Lyme gangstas to come back.  I am still following various treatment protocols to combat this illness.  I’ll keep you posted. 

Meanwhile, I still needed to get back on my diet and wellness program.  That’s when I decided to create mybetterbelly.com.  I knew that I wasn’t the only person who struggled with maintaining the good habits that most diets help establish.  Staying the course is much easier when you have a support group to help get you through. So I hope we’ll be that support for each other.  Let’s work together to create a tribe of like-minded folks that are willing to get better each day.  I’ll check in with you weekly to provided information to enlighten, inform and maybe even inspire.  In a few weeks I’ll be launching a Facebook page entitled “Let’s Get Better Together” where we will pledge each week to change something about our lifestyles and/or habits that will push us in the direction of better.  Stay tuned!

Let’s be BETTER than ever, TOGETHER,

Your partner along this journey,

Fajr