Health

Large Portions in Morocco by Brea Persing

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I have always found it fascinating that Moroccan men would look at me and not think I could eat what I had asked for. Mind you, I was about 125 lbs at the time and I couldn’t consume any carbs and hadn’t been able to for a few years at that point. But, to be fair, they’re coming from a cultural background where one would eat a lot of bread with every meal, of which I could not partake in.

I found, through conversations with friends, that in Morocco they have a woman’s portion and a men’s portion in restaurants. When I found this out, I immediately would ask for the men’s portion. They would look at me like I was crazy.

There was one time in Chefchaouen where they didn’t give me a lot to eat, so I ordered two tajines because I was still very hungry after the first one. And it was really good and still my favorite tajine to date. It was a delicious, fall off the bone chicken tajine with a hint of tomato, cumin, saffron, cinnamon and black pepper. Normally it would come with potato and carrots in it, but I asked them for green beans instead of potatoes. I can still taste it as I write about it. So yummy!

Then, on the road to Merzouga from Tangier by car, my friends and I stopped in a small town to get something to eat and I ordered a half a chicken. The Moroccan guys who were with us thought I was crazy and said that was no way I would finish it. Mind you, it’s all I could eat. Not only did I finish it, but also another piece from a friend who wasn’t going to finish his. Keep in mind, I hadn’t eaten much in the last 24 hours and I wasn’t sure when we would stop at a place that I could eat again, so I really made sure I was good to go.

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In Meknes I ordered a meat dish with some carrots and asked for a double portion of meat. The man said no to me! He said there was no way I could finish it. With some persuading, he gave me a double portion. I ate the whole thing and his eyes were wide when he realized it.

You see, when you can’t eat carbs, you are “forced” to eat more protein and vegetables to fill you up and give you energy.

Even outside of Morocco, I would get stares from people. It was very uncomfortable, but very necessary. I even remember times where I would eat a full dinner and be hungry 30 minutes later and eat another whole meal. This was due to not being able to eat carbs and my body was malnourished because I couldn’t process the nutrients that were coming in. My body was so sick! I didn’t go carbless out of choice, it was out of necessity because I couldn’t eat anything, with the exception of carrots, that had carbs in it. It took a toll on my body. My food was so limited. It was like a super strict Keto diet. Haha…that was way before Keto was even around. I used to tell people I ate high fat Paleo with modifications because that is the closest I had to describe it. I have come a long way since then! People used to ask me if I was sad about the things I couldn’t eat. I struggled with it, but after a while, I had finished the grieving and moved on. I started to focus on what I could eat and celebrate those things! 

Before I used to make a list of the things I could eat, now I’ve been able to add so many foods back into my diet that I have a list of the things I can’t eat now. It’s still daunting for someone to look at who’s never dealt with food allergies, but for me, It’s a major celebration. It’s so much easier for me to find food when I’m out! I no longer need to order double portions, or even be afraid to eat out. I’m still nervous at times, but it’s still so much easier than it used to be, and I am very grateful!

I Started Singing Again by Brea Persing

Professional Choir in Verona, Italy — 2012. Photographer unknown.

Professional Choir in Verona, Italy — 2012. Photographer unknown.

Do you ever notice that when you are really stressed, or depressed, that you stop doing something that you love? You don’t really notice it at first, but then eventually you realize it?

I have been singing since I came out of the womb. I LOVE it! I sang in all the choirs I could with church, school, college and even a professional choir overseas. I even got to perform, with my college choir, at Carnegie Hall and the Washington National Cathedral in 2004. Talk about an experience! I sing in my car, bedroom, while I’m cooking, you name it. Funny enough, I used to have stage fright when singing in front of people, which I still struggle with a bit (I’m pretty sure that’s because of insecurity), and I don’t sing as much when I’m living, or staying, with other people I as much so I don’t disturb them.

Haha, I even remember when I lived in Italy and I told my neighbor I would be leaving and she said that she would miss hearing me sing through the walls and smelling my cooking. It put a smile on my face. And it me more aware that the walls were thinner than I thought! 

But it was during that time that I noticed that when I was super stressed or depressed that I stopped singing. At first I didn’t realize it, but I distinctly remember a few times that I just could not sing, all I could do was listen to the music. It got so bad at one point that I couldn’t even handle listening to music. That was a super low point for me. 

The past few years have been really stressful for me with a lot of transition, mounted health issues, culture shock, trauma and some toxic relationships. Since moving back to the US my health has improved, I have taken time to work through trauma and get it out of my body, I said goodbye to toxic relationships and my stress is decreasing…in some ways at least. I noticed after these things started happening that I started singing more. 

Sometimes you don’t notice you’ve stopped doing something until you start doing it again. I used to listen to music in the car, but I’ve switched over to listening to audio books while driving. That happened when I was seeing 5-10 specialists a week for a solid 6 or so months and I was in the car driving about 8-10 hours a week. Music got a bit boring. I know…I can’t believe I just said that. Now, I listen to music when I’m getting ready in the morning, while working out, cooking, cleaning, working on photo editing or design projects, and when I’m getting ready for bed. For a while I was in a state that all I could do was listen, but as I began to destress, work through issues and be happier with who God made me to be, I started singing a long more! I also notice I sing more after I watch a show like The Voice or American Idol. :) 

That means a great deal! Even though I’m not in a house by myself, it means that I am less stressed, less depressed, and am happier! It means that I am on they way up the hill from the valley I was in for a bit. I learned a lot from the valley, but it’s refreshing and encouraging to be coming out of it. I mean, I already knew I was coming out of it because I was physically feeling better, my soul was doing better and I was smiling more…but singing was icing on the cake for confirmation.

What is it that you have noticed you’ve stopped doing? What are you doing to work through it to get to the other side?

Bye Bye Inflammation by Brea Persing

26 months—it took 26 months to get more than 32 years of inflammation out of my body. But if finally happened! The hard work and discipline paid off and I couldn’t be happier!

These days, everyone wants a quick fix, but when you’re dealing with health issues and root causes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Healing is not passive, it’s active. I was so sick that I was forced to take time off of work and focus on healing—my life depended on it. For nine months I focused nearly 100% on healing. This meant making sure I got enough sleep, which was about 8-10 hours a night, that I was disciplined in my eating (no low fat stuff here) and taking the medicine I needed consistently. You see, I almost died, but I’ll write another post on that soon. At the time, I was going to nearly five or so appointments a week. I would go and get adjusted by a chiropractor, get acupuncture, physical therapy, counseling to get rid of trauma in my body, massage therapy, lymphatic drainage therapy, colon hydrotherapy, and that didn’t cover the times I needed to get more blood work and see my doctor, which was every month to two months. The appointments and driving to them was a full time job. It was exhausting…but well worth it. 

My doctors found the root cause and we made a plan of action. The medicine and supplements were expensive, but absolutely necessary. I was lacking so many vitamins and minerals in my body it was scary. The doctor actually said a few times, “Wow, you have zero of this in your body. I’ve never seen that.” I later found out that I was the sickest patient my doctor had ever seen at that point and she wasn’t sure if I was actually going to make it. I’m pretty stubborn though, so dying wasn’t an option!

After the nine month period, the appointments lessened, but I was still going to appointments weekly or biweekly. But I was in a better place now that I had energy, could function, and could start working again.

I tried working out during this time, and I could do some, but not much. I had to make sure I wasn’t overextending my thyroid and adrenals which were already shot. Cardio was definitely NOT an option. Most of the time I just did restorative yoga, which was helpful for my soul and body.

Here was the hardest thing for me during this journey, besides the financial burden, was the weight gain. My doctors said that while my body was healing, coming out of starvation mode (because my body couldn’t process the nutrients I was putting inside it the years leading up to this), and dealing with getting the inflammation out of my body, that I would gain weight. She said I would gain and not be able to lose until the inflammation was gone. So I was thinking, ok, maybe 20 or so pounds, that’s doable. NOPE. I went from 123 lbs at my smallest (my body was literally not processing anything good I was putting in it) to 178 lbs. That’s a 55 lb difference. I went from a size 4 to a size 12. It was DEPRESSING! I just kept telling myself that I was healing and felt the best I had in YEARS! It helped, a little bit. But every time I had to buy a size bigger in jeans, I internally cried and grieved the loss. It’s hard on most anyone to gain weight, it’s especially hard for a woman, like me, who has struggled with body image most of her life.

Photo taken by my friend Laurie. This was about 5 lbs heavier than at my smallest as an adult. I was so sick during this trip in Morocco too.

Photo taken by my friend Laurie. This was about 5 lbs heavier than at my smallest as an adult. I was so sick during this trip in Morocco too.

Photo taken by my mother. This February at my heaviest, 178 lbs. Right before the inflammation fully went away. It’s was a really big change.

Photo taken by my mother. This February at my heaviest, 178 lbs. Right before the inflammation fully went away. It’s was a really big change.

On top of all that, I re-injured both of my rotator cuffs over the past summer, so I couldn’t do yoga anymore, even though I had more energy. It sucked! One thing they did tell me though, that once the inflammation was gone, my body would start to even out, get ride of the water weight, and settle itself down to where it wanted to be.

So finally, this February (2019) I was INFLAMMATION FREE! I danced and cried with the news! I had also continued my physical therapy and my rotator cuffs were in a place that I could start putting weight on them, so not only had I already started to lose about a half pound a week, but I could start doing more exercise than just air squats! It will be a long journey getting the added weight off, but I know it will happen slowly. Being able to get back to working out, still making sure I don’t over-exhaust my adrenals, feels good and I feel stronger and stronger each day.

Even though the inflammation is gone, healing is still happening. My appointments have lessened immensely, but there are still things I do on a “regular” basis, like colon hydrotherapy, an occasional chiropractic adjustment, and acupuncture to keep my body running normal and balanced.