Confessions of a Spoonie: Alexa Federico
Hello everyone, I’m back! For now anyway! Thank you again to Jodie to who took over this week to post Eleanor’s Confessions!
Alexa Federico is the owner and blogger at Girl in Healing. Her goal is to teach as many people with Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis and other autoimmune diseases that a whole foods diet has miraculous healing powers. Besides her blog, you can also connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
What condition/s do you suffer from and when were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease when I was 12 years old, in 2008.
What are the main symptoms you suffer from?
I have experienced a variety of symptoms during my 10 years with Crohn’s. Some of these I experience semi-regularly and others arise only when I am in an advanced flare-up. These symptoms include: stomach pain, weight loss/difficulty gaining weight, diarrhea, bloating, vomiting, mouth sores, arthritis (for me it is knee pain), night sweats, and fatigue.
What 3 things have you learned about your condition since being diagnosed?
- Put myself and my health first always. It took me a while to understand this and sometimes I still need to remind myself of it. But I try not to push myself too hard whether it be saying “yes” to too many job opportunities, staying up late to finish work, going to social events even though I feel tired or sick last minute. Self care and rest is essential to my autoimmune disease!
- The food we eat goes a looooong way. When I was first diagnosed, my doctors poo-pooed the idea of food affecting Crohn’s (even though it is a digestive disease). Well, I followed their medication protocol and loose diet guidelines for a year but I landed in the hospital two more times, just as sick as when I was first diagnosed. Cleaning up my diet, incorporating whole foods and eliminating the inflammatory ones has made a huge improvement in my life.
- Don’t let the bad days get you down too long. There are going to be ups and down with an autoimmune illness. I can easily feel discouraged when I have a bad day or days after feeling well. I just have to do my part in caring for my body knowing better days are ahead.
What is the hardest part about your illness, in your opinion?
The hardest part is experiencing pain that isn’t relatable to those around me. Only other people with my specific condition can relate to what I go through. Empathy and support mean the world to me and truly make a huge difference. But, ultimately, Crohn’s is a disease that I have to face myself.
List 3 phrases you hate hearing off other people about your condition. List 3 things you wish people would say/do instead.
– “You look good.”
– “You’re lucky you’re skinny and/or don’t gain weight.”
– “Are you feeling better?”
Sometimes my appearance is a reflection of how I am feeling, but other times I am feeling terrible and have fooled people by my presentation. When people ask if I am feeling better after I had to be absent or cancel on something, I know it is coming from the goodness of their hearts but sometimes I would like to say, “No, I am not feeling much better but I couldn’t miss today, too.”
Three things I wish people would say instead:
– What does your pain feel like?
– When I see what you go through, it makes me appreciate my health.
– Your struggles have made me start to make changes in my lifestyle and diet.
I don’t look for sympathy or praise from people. But instead, I want to make a difference in other people’s lives. I want people to change their ways and their family and friend’s ways so that healthier lifestyles are more common and disease is less common.
Do you have any cheats/tricks to get you through the day or to help you complete certain tasks?
Every morning I start my day with warm water and the juice of half of a lemon. I have been doing this for many years now and it settles my stomach quickly when it is most upset upon waking up. I wouldn’t be able to be very productive without it!
If I am flaring and experiencing constant stomach pain, I will buy the heat patches used for body pain and stick them under my clothing. They stay hot for hours and comfort my stomach.
Have you picked up any new hobbies or activities since being diagnosed that you didn’t think you would?
I would never have developed a passion for clean, whole foods and healthy lifestyles if it were not for having Crohn’s disease. Upon learning that certain foods are offensive to an inflamed bowel, the information kept coming until I realized how we as a society are fed very low quality and sometimes dangerous foods and chemicals without our knowledge.
I am pursuing a certification as a nutritional therapy practitioner now because of this passion!
What do you do? Work, study?
I completed my Bachelor’s degree in elementary education in May 2016 and became a full time nanny following graduation. I took this time to bounce back from the constant run around school had been for my whole life, which had added difficulty with Crohn’s. It was tough to admit, but teaching is a very demanding job and I knew in my heart it was not the best fit for someone like me, who can experience debilitating symptoms. Luckily, I discovered I could turn my health passion into a career as well.
What are you plans for the future?
I plan to have my own nutritional therapy practice in 2018 and help other people struggling in their health balance their lifestyle and diet. Later, I want to be married, have kids, do lots of traveling, and be happy in my career. I definitely want to write multiple books.
Is there anything you would do differently since being diagnosed, and why?
My first thought was I wish I had been exposed to the harmful diet when I was first diagnosed. That would have saved me a lot more suffering. It did, however, show me what some foods will do to my body. I also would have started blogging sooner in hopes of reaching more people diagnosed with IBD.
Has your illness taught you anything about life?
It has taught me a lot of things. To take one day at a time. Enjoy the simple joys. Have things to look forward to. Not to be hard on myself. And staying positive and loving my body for what it is instead of hating it and being negative, which is a recurring theme I see across the internet in people talking about their chronic illness.
What advice/information do you wish you were told when you were first diagnosed?
Piggybacking on my answer to the earlier question would be that the food I eat does in fact have a huge impact on my symptoms and wellbeing.
What would be your main piece of advice for people who has just been diagnosed with your condition?
Don’t get too frustrated. A lot changes happened in your body to develop this condition so it is going to take time to experience healing. But absolutely don’t give up!
Thank you so much Alexa for taking the time to answer these questions! If you liked this, remember to check out her blog!
- Jodie will be posting another Confessions of a Spoonie on Tuesday 9th April!
- I will be posting the next Outside Looking In on Thursday 11th April!
If you would like to get involved, you still can! Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get something organised!