Amongst BePure's highlights of 2019 were having two seminar tours based around a holistic approach to supporting mind-body wellness, with Food, Mood & Anxiety, and The Gut-Brain Connection.
The feedback and interest we received on this focus, and the stories it brought up from our followers, event attendees, clients, customers, friends, and family was just incredible.
Not everyone has mental illness, but everyone has mental health, which needs to be looked after and maintained, just like our physical health.
The link between our mental and physical wellbeing is something so many of you expressed interest in learning how to support using simple but effective, everyday ways. There is no one way to cause or cure poor health of any kind. The way we nurture and strengthen our mental wellbeing must be multifactorial.
"Don't let mental illness become a prerequisite for taking care of your mental wellbeing." - Mark Freeman
When we open the doors for vulnerability, we let connection in too. We wanted to share with you a beautiful story of hope, and to journey of cultivating mental and physical wellbeing from our BePure Marketing Communications Manager, Tish McNicol.
Health has meant a lot of different things to me over the last decade.
Leaving high school and moving through my twenties meant navigating my own wellness journey for the first time—a challenging process that has ultimately demanded that I redefine my perceptions of health over, and over again.
I’m still very much on this journey.
But equally, I’ve learned some things about myself that have forced me to look back and question some of the lifestyle choices I once thought of as unavoidable.
We talk about university days as being ‘the best days of our lives’—but for most of us (certainly for me!), we also approach them with very little understanding of how our physical health is connected to our mental health.
Often, I wonder how different those years would have been for me if I had the knowledge I have now—and if my diagnosis of a dysfunctional thyroid would have potentially been avoidable.
Despite that, I am of the opinion that dwelling on regret doesn’t serve anyone. Instead, I’m hoping that by allowing myself to be vulnerable and sharing my story, others might feel empowered to dive a little deeper into their own understanding of what wellness looks like—and ultimately, to feel better.
Because as I’ve come to learn, that’s what good health is all about.
Connecting the dots
Like many young New Zealanders, finishing school meant one thing for me: Scarfie central.
While Dunedin will remain some of the funniest days of my life—there was a 'wobbly' patch where, pretty quickly the sugary drinks, less wholesome food options and all round drinking culture started to take their toll. I developed body image qualms as my figure started to look and feel like, what I was consuming.
Heading home for the summer, I was motivated to get back in shape and had wrongfully concluded that being thinner clearly equalled being healthy. This turned into something of an obsession; and soon spiralled into the attitude of 'unless I was thin, I wasn’t good enough'.
In my second year of uni, my mental health took a turn for the worst. Essentially, I backed myself into a pretty dark space. I would find it incredibly hard to go to sleep at night, and passed that off as just being a ‘night owl’. My motivation was at an all-time low and my general sense of happiness was deflated. Something just wasn’t right.
I feel it's important to acknowledge that I’m not against partying or the student lifestyle by any means. But I do think I arrived totally ill-equipped for, and unaware of the dramatic effect this change would have on my physical and mental health.
As a country, we’re now facing a mental health crisis on a significant scale. As tough as it is, I do believe we need to examine the pressure points along the way that can collectively cause us harm.
We treat those feelings of anxiety, body-image qualms, and low mood as being part of the human experience—but we don’t have to!
Overall, I was lucky—lucky that I didn’t get any deeper into that mindset, and even through the fog, I could still see that the tools to get better were all around me.
Forming a really strong social network was the first thing to change. And looking back, I believe it was my genuine friendships that got me through! I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a supportive network. For me, this was vital, and showed me evidence of how wellness comes from more than just the food we eat, and the exercise we do.
While my social wellbeing was uplifted, I still carried on watching what I was eating, fearing that I wouldn’t be ‘good enough’ if I put on weight.
After my time in Dunedin, I moved to Auckland, and instead of finding the job of dreams as I'd hoped, I found myself struggling with work.
Only this time without my core circle of friends to keep me grounded the old feelings started to creep back in, and my four areas of wellbeing—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual—were under serious strain.
Looking back, I think it all contributed like a perfect time bomb to me discovering a lump in my neck, which turned out to be a large goiter on my thyroid.
My Thyroid Story
The goiter on my thyroid was huge! And my blood tests were showing that while technically still just inside the medical reference ranges, I was heading towards hyperthyroidism (think hair falling out, weight loss, over-thinking and so on).
I was referred to a specialist, had ultrasounds, CT scans and blood tests, which medically had me hurtling down the path to having a full thyroidectomy, complete removal of the thyroid.
Before this point I didn’t even know what a thyroid was.
As I soon learned, it’s a butterfly-shaped organ that sits in your throat, and is actually very important. The thyroid controls your metabolism, weight and energy, communicates with your reproductive system, plays a role in keeping you warm, and basically keeps all your other bodily functions working as they should—which made the thought of having it removed pretty terrifying.
Through it all, my gut instinct was to keep my thyroid.
The more I learned about it, the more I felt sure that my years of not eating and living well had contributed to its decline. I hoped that by changing my lifestyle, I could do significant work towards healing it.
Naturally I felt massive doubt challenging the words of such an authoritative figure. Who was I to know better than a doctor or a surgeon?
Then, like divine intervention, I landed the job at BePure just as I was scheduled to have the surgery.
On the basis of having talked to Ben about thyroid health, I decided to take a leap of trust, and put the surgery on hold indefinitely, and commit to trying out the BePure way to support my health, knowing that if that didn't work out either, the surgery was always available to me later on.
Journey to Wellness
A month later, I started my role at BePure, and under to support and guidance of my Holistic Health Consultant, Lisa, got stuck into a BePure Clinic Programme. Committed to trying to restore my thyroid through a more holistic approach, I began my journey to wellness.
First it was starting with prioritising and nailing the basics: reducing gluten, figuring out what my macronutrient profile was, and eating a diet rich in wholefoods—goodbye to any processed and hello to loads of veggies! As well as continuing with restorative movement.
I had actually been practising yoga for a few years, and am so grateful for my practice as I wholeheartedly believe it opened me up to exploring holistic wellness.
I was already pretty ‘health conscious’, but I soon realised how much I was getting wrong! I was eating loads of ‘healthy’ treats, which, to my dismay, were of course, still full of sugar.
Over the past two years, I’ve completed stool testing which discovered yeasts and candida. As a result, I’ve spent a good three months cleansing my gut to rebuild a solid strong army of good bacteria.
Gut health is often at the root of many health concerns, so I wanted to eliminate the bad bacteria holding me back.
I also made the choice to come off all synthetic contraceptives. I had a Mirena IUD at the time and while it had served me well, it was definitely the right time to come off and get my body back into balance.
The reason this felt like a must in my thyroid journey is because your pituitary gland naturally forms connections with your thyroid, your adrenals, and your ovaries. It was like there was a missing piece of the communication puzzle—so getting my ovaries back online might also play a part in my thyroid becoming well too.
If there is one thing my journey has reinforced to me, it’s that the human body is incredible and intricate. Everything is interconnected and the more I have got in tune and listened, the more it’s all fallen into place.
From there, I tested my hormones using the Eve Hormone Balance Test, and found that my progesterone levels were on the floor (most likely due to stress).
Since then, I’ve been working on balancing my hormones, and moving towards the big O—ovulation! My test results showed my body wasn’t ovulating—something I’m stoked to have discovered now, rather than down the track when I might be seriously trying for a baby.
Onwards and upwards
Today, I test my thyroid levels on the regular.
I’m very happy to report they are now within ‘normal range’ according to medical standards, which is a massive win. I still have some work to do before they are in what BePure would call the ‘wellness range’, but it’s still a huge improvement to this time last year, when I looked like I had a golf ball poking out the side of my neck!
I feel very grateful that at the time I was considering surgery, I had people around me who believed in the potential of a different route to wellness, and that I was already in touch with my body enough to challenge the standard medical solutions presented to me in this instance.
Overall, I think my biggest learning from my experiences over the last decade is that health really is an ongoing journey! It’s not one end point, but rather, an awesome, and empowering evolution that can grow and change as you do. In addition, it’s different for everyone—I certainly don’t present this message as a uniform ‘how-to’ guide for health.
When I think back to my younger self, I don’t regret anything, in fact, I even feel blessed to have had a thyroid concern, because now I am so much more in touch with my body and aware of the habits that impact my mental and physical health.
But if I could go back and say anything to young me, first and foremost, I’d emphasise that cultivating a deep sense of love and compassion for yourself will have the biggest impact. Learning to treat your body with respect and love will allow you build a constructive dialogue of listening and healing.
I’m unfailingly proud of where I’ve come from and where I’m going, and that’s what really matters. Because being kind to yourself is the first step—everything else will follow.