I almost didn’t write this post, but then then something amazing happened.

The other day in yoga class, I kicked up into my first handstand ever. Yes, I was at the wall and using blocks, but it was still a huge deal for me. This time 6 years ago, I didn’t know if I’d ever get back to yoga again, much less get into a handstand by myself.

The summer I was 24 started off great. I went to Italy for a 3-week grad school course, which was amazing. I learned so much about food and health and was introduced to so many foods and flavors that have become kitchen staples. It was also an eye-opener in terms of life-work balance goals and the importance of pleasure in overall wellness. I feel like a walking cliche when I say this, but it really is one of my happy places.

Jess Mediterranean Sea 2010

My first trip to Italy—I never wanted to come home!

(Haha I totally hate this picture because it’s from back in the days before I cared to wear a bra or brush my hair, but I was so happy and felt so free, that it’s a nice reminder of how I want to feel in my life in general)

bresaola with arugula and part

Tasty things I enjoyed on my most 2015 trip to Milan

…and then I came home and got smacked with some lady problems, followed shortly by a nasty arm injury—in both arms. I was in constant pain, and sleep was nearly impossible with that bone-deep ache. As a writer, barely being able to hold a pen was almost intolerable. The doctor I saw (at the hospital where I now work, crazy enough) called it a “stress reaction,” which is basically one step below a stress fracture. Healing the injury still required me to modify my daily activities and avoid yoga until it healed, which took months.

It was almost a year before I went back to yoga and weight lifting, and when I did, my relationship with those activities had completely shifted from a “workout” mindset to a “self-care”/”things I do to avoid future injury” one.
I would also learn that I was suffering from vitamin B-12 and vitamin D deficiencies, the latter of which is especially important for supporting healthy bones and healing damaged ones. I was so embarrassed when I found out—I was studying nutrition, for f***’s sake! How had I let this happen? Long story short, though it was hard to admit at the time, a lot of it was because I was trying to follow my then-boyfriend’s vegetarian diet, and it was not a good fit for my body*. More on that here.

That said, I wish I had known back then just how important it is to consume enough protein, calcium, and vitamin D when healing from an injury. I also wish my younger self had felt more confident to stand up for herself and her needs instead of continuing to follow the meat-free house rules. I could have at least purchased, say, higher-protein Greek yogurt instead of the regular plain we bought in bulk because it was cheaper. I can see now how messed up it is that I didn’t feel like I could do that, but that’s where I was at then, and you can’t change the past. You can learn from it, though.

Greek yogurt is now a kitchen staple—things have changed

Greek yogurt is now a kitchen staple—things have changed

A physical injury like that, especially when the dietary component came to light, was a big wakeup call, and within the year I began making changes to get better and back to myself. Now it feels like that phase in my life is a weird dream I had once. Funny how that goes. It really is amazing what time, adequate nutrition, and showing compassion towards the body can heal.

My own personal crash course in doing it wrong has helped me learn about safe approaches to transitioning to a plant-based diet. It’s actually become one of my favorite things to work on in my private practice.

In my clinical work, I now spend a lot of time talking with patients about nutrition for healing from surgery and injury. I think that my having been through an experience like that gives me an understanding of what they’re going through and how to deal with it.

I recently shared some of these tips over on Fitness to help you know what to eat to heal fast!

Have you ever suffered an injury? What was the healing process like for you? Have you ever changed your diet for a partner? 

*I do think vegetarian and even vegan diets can be a great fit for some people. It was just not the right fit for me at that time in my life, especially because I was doing it to make someone else happy and not considering my own overall health.

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