How I Got My Pre-Travel Body Back
Given the sensitive nature of this post, I’d like to preface my story with a few words…
All bodies are beautiful. All bodies are healthy. All bodies are worthy of love. All bodies are perfect.
I honor every part of my journey and I honor every part of yours, as perfect and always meant to be.
We all have different definitions of what it means to be “healthy” and I respect every perspective. There is no right or wrong when it comes to taking care of your body. You know best.
I request that you honor me by refraining from judging what is or is not the best body, diet, or weight for me, and trust that my body knows what it needs to feel healthy.
I acknowledge that I still have healing to do surrounding my body image. I don’t pretend to have it all figured out, I honor my evolution and humbly offer myself as I am now.
I am not a healthcare professional, nutritionist, or any kind of health expert. This is simply my personal experience. Please take it all with a healthy sprinkle of skepticism and trust in your own intuition.
I used to be one of those people who ate whatever she wanted and never seemed to gain weight.
My diet consisted of enormous bowls of pasta, baked macaroni and cheese, tons of bread, and I dined in restaurants almost every night of the week. You could say I was… healthy… in the sense that I wasn’t into sweets and everything I ate was high quality and gourmet. Plus I’ve always been a big salad eater and loved my veggies. But my caloric intake was so high I simply assumed that once my twenty year old metabolism wore off or I had kids, I’d end up fat like most Americans. At least, that’s the belief I adopted through my culture and what I witnessed occurring around me. I basically accepted it as inevitable.
‘Cause I wasn’t one of those people who exercised. Oh no. Never.
I worked at an office, spent most of my day sitting behind a computer, and then retired to the bar or my sofa. I’d buy yearly gym memberships and go a few times, bored while jogging on a treadmill watching a talk show or reading a Gossip magazine. I’d have random stints of going for hot yoga but could never discipline myself to be consistent. And while I didn’t completely love my body, I felt small enough to not feel motivated to change it.
I wore tight jeans and high heels and loose blouses to feel thin. Put on lots of makeup if I ever had a breakout. Thought acid reflux, phlegm, getting colds and flus, and feeling pretty disconnected from my body was… normal. ‘Cause that’s how it is for most 20 something Americans… right?
Then, I left for Costa Rica.
Within a month I probably lost ten pounds (I don’t weigh myself ever) and I felt light and entirely comfortable in my body for the first time in my life. I sweat out my bloat thanks to the tropical weather, was eating very differently, and I spent hours every day moving my body.
I wasn’t trying to exercise. I wasn’t trying to eat healthier. I wasn’t trying to lose weight. I just adapted to the lifestyle and the rest happened naturally.
Instead of cheese (hard to come by and exorbitantly expensive) I ate mangos and papayas (abundant and delicious). Instead of driving to work in traffic, I walked on the beach for hours every day. Instead of sitting behind a computer, I swam in the ocean. Instead of drinking fancy cocktails over intellectual conversation on a Friday night, I shot back pure liquor and danced my ass off in the Reggae bars.
None of this took discipline. Living in Costa Rica simply rearranged my life into one that made me happier and healthier. I ate very simply due to the inconvenient lifestyle, which while difficult at first I came to truly appreciate. Food was no longer the most important thing to me. I exercised a ton and realized how much easier it was to relax, sleep, and feel energy. I started to love constantly using my body. Being so connected with nature and sensuality, I felt very much… in my body… for the first time ever.
For the year and a half that followed, despite constantly changing my lifestyle, I magically maintained this slimmer weight.
I traveled through Europe, Morocco, Central, and South America eating pretty much anything and everything, I stayed thin and fit by walking everywhere, doing yoga every day, and I think I was so immersed in the magic of travel that I was no longer overeating emotionally (a pattern I’ve played out since childhood).
It was amazing to finally feel comfortable in my body. To wear anything I wanted to wear. To be photographed in bikinis and actually like the way that I looked. To have women tell me every day what a “perfect” body I had. And best of all, to feel like it was all… effortless.
But there was also a layer of discomfort and shame I felt from that.
I remember traveling through Europe with a friend from college and her being frustrated that I wanted to eat salad instead of rich Portuguese meats. She would constantly comment on how skinny I was… like it was strange or unnatural. People in Puerto Viejo would ask me how I was so “skinny” when I drank so much alcohol. (Back then I would party til three am on ten shots of tequila, a lot has changed over the years.) My body was complemented a lot, but it felt often like a strange sort of… criticism.
Plus, loving my body certainly wasn’t a constant. I’d see a photo where I thought I looked fat and suddenly question everything. I’d look down at my thighs in an awkward yoga pose and get worried. I’d analyze photos over the last year and judge and assess when I was thinnest and why I wasn’t currently thinner. Sometimes it felt like the more I exercised, did yoga, and connected with my body physically, the more judgmental I became of it. Like most people I’ve never been able to clearly see myself in the light that others do. They call it body dysmorphic disorder… I call it Western cultural conditioning.
And my body may have looked “better” than it ever had, but I definitely wasn’t healthy. So of course I didn’t feel good in my body. I’d regularly binge on alcohol and wake up with hangovers. I was constantly contracting food poisoning from eating weird street food after the bars. I ate way less veggies and way more fried food as I relied on what I could find while traveling. I had horrible stomach pain a lot of the time, which prevented me from enjoying life as fully as I wanted to.
Eventually I got sick of feeling so sick, and I made my health my priority. I stopped traveling for a while, stopped partying for a while, and I committed to resting in Costa Rica. Simply by avoiding the bars, I lost a lot of friends and gained a lot of new ones.
That’s when I learned about cleansing and the importance of probiotics. My eyes opened wide to an entire community of people here slightly obsessed with health. I immediately cut out meat, gluten, sugar, and dairy. I started doing daily coffee enemas (more on those later), did a coconut water fast (more on this later too), made my own probiotic foods, and became totally immersed in learning natural remedies for everything.
My skin was smoother, clearer, and more glowing than I had ever seen it. My belly was flat as a board. I was eating without feeling restricted, never getting sick, and my mind stretched way open. I even felt OK with the idea of GAINING weight, because I wanted to acquire more nutrients.
But… it was a lot to integrate all at once.
I went back to the states that summer and kept it up with the green juice and sprouted seeds… yet started eating bread, meat, cake… everything. I ate huge portions at gatherings with friends. Emotionally binged. Gained back all of the weight I had lost over the last 18 months… and then some.
I tried to get back to my strict diet and cleansing protocol when I started backpacking around Southeast Asia a few months later. Not so easy to do coffee enemas when you’re staying in hostels with shared bathrooms. Or to eat totally grain free in a part of the world that lives on white rice. Or to avoid sugar, MSG, vegetable oil, and all kinds of chemicals when you’re on a backpacker budget and you’re a travel blogger enjoying street food.
To keep myself from getting food poisoning like I had in the past, I did travel with water kefir that I would brew on the road. Which made a huge difference. I was spared many of the ailments so many other travelers had. However I was still getting bad skin breakouts, perhaps from the water or the city pollution, and my poop was totally inconsistent. (We are going to talk about poop a lot in this article so get used to it now.)
I was typically someone who always had good solid, consistent poops (probably why despite overeating I was always thin) and I had clear, smooth skin. In Southeast Asia my skin was almost always broken out and I rarely had a solid bowel movement.
Then, about mid trip my water kefir was destroyed in transit from Cambodia to Bali. For the months that followed I had fevers, food poisoning, the flu, infected sea urchin wounds, and felt less healthy than ever.
After nine of months of constant travel, I got back to the states, embarrassed by my bad skin and perplexed why I had gained weight when basically all I ate was fruit and I seemed to constantly be flushing myself thanks to food poisoning. I did coffee enemas and drank diatomaceous Earth to try to kill parasites, but to be fair my efforts were half hearted and didn’t really work.
My body and my skin were never the same after that. My poop was always inconsistent. My skin improved but I would get random breakouts. I had a bad haircut I couldn’t seem to grow out…obviously unrelated to travel sickness but totally related to my overall feeling of… unbeautiful. I was constantly confused about what my body actually looked like, using various mirrors and photographs as my reference point.
Traveling through Europe and Morocco, I got completely backed up and could barely poop for months. I developed a belly that no matter how many core workouts or planks I did just wouldn’t go away. And somewhere along the road I picked up an intense sugar addiction, constantly craving sweets while in my pre-travel days I would usually turn down dessert.
When I returned to Costa Rica I hoped it would all just melt off since it’s so easy here to be healthy. I was eating more consciously and strictly than I ever had in my life, exercising more than I ever had in my life, and yet I was the heaviest I had ever been. While in the past being thin felt effortless, now ten pounds heavier felt very effortful. In my yoga teacher training, practicing Vinyasa for ten hours per day I even gained weight.
My diet consisted of mostly vegetables and I rode my bicycle at least five miles per day, did power yoga for at least an hour, and would walk on the beach in the morning and the evening. Did I need to also do daily pilates? Start running every morning? Go Paleo even though I’ve always been disgusted by meat? It didn’t make sense to me that I was thinner back when I sat behind a desk and ate giant bowls of pasta, than I was constantly moving my body and eating salad.
Plus… I felt heavier than I looked because I was very bloated. My poop was either liquid or didn’t come out at all. I had gas. Most of my meals were followed with heartburn. And when I looked at old pictures of myself on the blog, I felt inauthentic, because I knew my body didn’t look like that anymore.
Some of you may be looking at the photos in this post and be like “bitch please, you look the same, you don’t know how it feels to actually be fat, get over yourself” and others may be nodding like, “mmmm hmmmm.”
The point isn’t whether or not I actually looked any better or any different at any stage in my journey. The point is that I, as we all do, deserve to feel as beautiful on the outside as I do on the inside.
Which I know is more than just physical.
It is very emotional.
I knew I needed to do a lot of healing around loving and accepting my body. Exactly as it was. Exactly as it is. I remembered that the reason I exercise is to feel alive. That I eat healthy to feel nourished. I remembered to appreciate the beauty of being a woman with curves. To look at myself like a friend would look at myself… beautiful. Perfect. Not fat.
And all of that… well I’m still learning through it. Still learning to love and accept myself and my body. Still trying to see myself clearly, not through photographs or mirrors, but through the eyes of the one who loves me most. (Read more: I am Beautiful, and so are You)
And as much value as there is in that journey… there is also value in acknowledging that I didn’t feel or look as physically healthy as I desired to be. I deserved love no matter how I looked in a bikini or how often I pooped, but I also deserved to FEEL GOOD. Physically.
I didn’t feel embodied in my body.
I felt heavy.
I felt unhealthy.
I felt out of alignment physically with how much I had evolved emotionally, mentally, spiritually.
I felt like I was physically holding onto old experiences that got stuck along my journey.
And I wanted to let that shit go.
Traveling through Thailand and Sri Lanka this past winter just intensified this feeling. I had all kinds of strange tummy troubles, random skin breakouts, and midway through Sri Lanka I stopped being able to go to the toilet at all. I felt uncomfortable in bikinis, confused about what to eat, and felt this pressure to get enough exercise even when I really just wanted to rest.
Eventually I felt so sick that I decided that feeling physically good, well cared for in my body, was more important to me than anything. Including traveling. I decided I would use the weight, the bloat, the illnesses, and my totally imbalanced digestion as motivation to start paying more attention to my well being.
Whether I lost the weight or not, didn’t matter anymore. Frankly, I let that go a long time ago. What did matter was feeling healthy.
Three months later, I’m back home in Costa Rica. For the first time in years my stomach no longer feels bloated. Despite exercising far less, I’ve lost a significant amount of weight. My digestion has improved tremendously, with consistent, solid bowel movements multiple times per day. My skin is clear, glowing, and softer than ever. I feel so much lighter, freer, and more comfortable in my body.
I feel a lot more like… myself.
I feel like the woman I have been becoming all of these years.
After being so discouraged for so long, I finally feel hopeful that I don’t have to kill myself exercising for a million hours per day or obsess over how much I eat. That getting older doesn’t mean getting fatter. That my body has the tremendous ability to heal itself from any past experience. And that as long as I make loving myself and honoring my body my priority, I will continue to become as healthy and as beautiful on the outside as I feel on the inside.
I titled this post, “How I Got My Pre-Travel Body Back” but really, I feel like I’m creating a completely new body. A new body that feels a lot more like me.
This has been my process…
I made my body my priority
Like most Westerners I was not conditioned to value or prioritize self care. It’s something that I’ve learned through the practice of yoga, living by myself, creating a lifestyle that allows me lots of free time, and being dedicated to my spiritual evolution. The same way heartbreak has been my greatest reminder in learning how to love myself, physical illness has been my greatest reminder in learning how to care for my body.
Recently, thanks to my chronic tonsillitis in Sri Lanka and so many digestive issues, I couldn’t ignore my body any longer. I flew back to the states fully committed to doing whatever I needed to do to restore my health. I knew it would take time, but I was willing to make any sacrifice to honor my body as fully as she deserves.
This meant more to me than just cleansing and changing my diet like I did years ago in Costa Rica. It meant really listening to the wisdom of my body. Exercising less… even though I was afraid I’d get fat. Resting more… even though I judged myself for not being “productive.” Tuning in more and more with what felt good on a very physical level without analyzing whether or not I deserved it.
I healed my shame around being thin
When I set a very clear intention that I wanted to lose ten pounds, have good, consistent, solid poops, and eliminate all of my gas and indigestion, I realized I had a lot of blocks (no pun intended) preventing me from manifesting it. The first piece was that I felt I had tried sooooo many things to lose weight and get healthy and none seemed to make a big difference. I’ll address that in the coming sections. But much deeper than that, I realized that I actually felt ashamed of wanting to be thin and afraid of attaining it. I was afraid I’d make other women feel uncomfortable, that it made me superficial, and overall I’d be less likable or relatable.
I realized that there are a lot of confusing messages, even in the space of women’s empowerment, about it not being ok to be thin. Perhaps because for so long we’ve been told that we have to be thin to be worthy, we’ve corrected ourselves so far in the opposite direction and made “thin” a shame word. The acknowledgement of all bodies as beautiful and the celebration of bodies that don’t fit a certain prototype we’ve been sold as beautiful is SO healing, so necessary, and I’m grateful for it.
However I’m also softening into letting “conventionally beautiful” be acceptable. Every body is beautiful. Every expression is beautiful. And each of is allowed to outwardly express our beauty in whatever way we want. I finally owned the fact that as much value as there has been in learning to accept my occasional skin breakouts or carry a bit of extra weight, I feel more beautiful with clear skin and a thinner body. Perhaps that’s my conditioning, or perhaps it’s simply that when my skin is clear and my body is thin I am healthier on the inside.
I changed my diet
The first physical change I made when I got back to the states was dramatically shifting my diet. While I always strived to make the healthiest food choices I possibly could, my diet was totally inconsistent from so much travel. I knew that I was allergic to gluten and dairy, but I still ate them sometimes. I knew that processed sugar was basically crack, but I still ate it sometimes. I knew that vegetable oils were highly cancerous, but they were in basically every dish in every restaurant that I ate in while traveling the world. Plus… I have always always always loved anything fried.
So, step one was fully committing to eliminating those foods from my diet. No exceptions. I was addicted to these vices, and I treated them as addictions. I wouldn’t quit heroine but then be like, ok I’ll just do it once per month. To end the addiction I needed to fully remove them.
The next step was focusing more on digestion than on caloric intake or food quantity. On the long train ride to the airport in Sri Lanka I read The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder, which really opened my mind to the fact that a healthy weight is largely influenced by the levels of toxicity in your body, your balance of gut bacteria, and the efficiency of your digestive system. This brought me a lot of hope, as I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t thinner based on how clean I was eating and how much I was exercising. I did know that my digestion was a mess and my gut bacteria was out of whack from years of exposure to all kinds of bugs traveling.
To begin, I started taking probiotics twice per day, digestive enzymes with every meal, and practicing proper food combining. My diet consisted of: lots of lemon water upon waking, a big green smoothie for breakfast, a huge salad of raw veggies and avocado for lunch, a smoothie with chia seeds and superfoods for afternoon snack, and more salad and a curry or stir fry for dinner. I completely eliminated sugar, dairy, soy, grains, oil, and salt (other than pink himalayan). No exceptions. Ever.
But… I didn’t lose any weight.
I was still bloated.
I was still backed up.
My poop was thin and felt incomplete.
To say I felt frustrated was an understatement. My diet had become so restrictive and I still wasn’t seeing results. But I also realized how this experience was here to help me. If I had gotten an instant fix, perhaps I would have gone back to my old ways. Because I wasn’t getting results, I kept up with these changes not for any kind of outcome, but to implement a long term lifestyle change. I became less and less addicted to food, eventually I broke my sugar addiction completely, and I had a lot more mental space to offer other spaces of my life. This is an ongoing process I’m still very much evolving through.
I cleansed my liver and my colon
From my experience with cleansing in the past, I know how important it is not just to eliminate the bad stuff and eat a detoxifying diet, you need to actually clear the toxins out. Since I was hardly pooping, I felt really crappy a lot of the time. I was taking on all of the toxicity that my body was trying to release.
So I shelled out and went for a series of colonics. Imagine my frustration when barely anything came out. How was it possible that I had been backed up for so long… and nothing was coming out?!
After about two months of being on a highly restrictive diet and getting several colonics, yet seeing little to no results in my appearance or digestion, I decided to go back to my old friend the coffee enema. I fell in love with coffee enemas years ago when I had my natural wellness awakening in Costa Rica. At first I was horrified at the idea but I felt so amazing after the first one that I instantly became a believer. I had done them sporadically throughout the years, but what I realized this time was that to really reap the benefits you need to do a lot of them together in tandem with cleansing. Why? Because it takes more than one coffee enema to relieve a lifetime of overburdening the liver.
As soon as I started doing the enemas my bowels started to flow, and when I went in for a colonic again, I flushed a ton of candida. Apparently candida collects in the liver, and because coffee enemas directly cleanse the liver, I was finally able to let that old gunk go. As the acidity of the coffee broke down the sludge on the walls of my colon I started to flush old mucus too. Finally it felt like things were shifting.
I took lots of bacteria
When I returned to Costa Rica after two months in the states, I prepared myself by packing tons of probiotics and a high power blender (Nutribullet) to maintain my diet. Years ago I learned the tremendous benefits of consuming probiotic foods and had kept myself relatively healthy by brewing my own water kefir and eating sauerkraut. But a lot of health experts told me it wasn’t enough. I also needed to take the supplements.
In Seattle I started taking two very expensive high quality probiotics per day and really didn’t notice much of a difference. However once I got to Costa Rica, thanks to a huge and inexplicable infected burn wound (more on that in a future post), I doubled my dose. I was taking two soil based high quality probiotics in the morning on an empty stomach and two in the evening before bed. Additionally I ate a big serving of fermented veggies at lunch and dinner. I knew that was way more than the “recommended” amount, but my gut bacteria was so out of balance from a lifetime of antibiotics and five years of global travel and food poisoning.
That’s when everything changed. Because of the burn on my leg I hadn’t left the house and I could barely exercise. I rested my body more than I had in years. I ate huge portions of frozen banana cacao chia pudding smoothies and as many avocados as I wanted. Yet, in ten days I dropped ten pounds. My belly became flat again for the first time in over two years. It felt like coming home to a body I thought I might never know again.
Not to mention, I was FINALLY going to the toilet regularly. Which felt amazing after being backed up for so long. My perspective totally changed and more and more I trusted that I could slow down and rest my body, not kill myself with exercise, and still maintain a healthy weight.
I let a lot of shit go
Once my leg had almost healed, and my body had rapidly transformed, I came home one night to see that my home had been broken into and all of my electronics, money, cards, passport, and underwear were stolen. (I’ll be writing this whole story and the amazing lessons I learned in the coming weeks.)
I couldn’t work, I didn’t feel safe in my house anymore, and I uprooted my life completely. I let go of knowing where I was going to live. I let go of all of the projects and tasks I thought were important. I let go of many layers of identity I had cloaked myself in over the years creating my business and making a home for myself in Costa Rica.
I believe that the physical weight I shed and the literal shit I released led to this emotional and mental baggage being taken from me. Through cleansing my body I communicated to life that I was ready to let go to start living more and more in alignment with my highest self. Life took drastic measures, which ultimately has been a tremendous blessing.
I stopped eating
As I mentioned earlier, I have a deep emotional dependence and addiction to food. I think most of us do. That was some of the most profound healing I experienced on my first trip to Costa Rica. I didn’t know how to source the foods I normally ate, and was consuming really basic bland meals.
At first that was HARD, but it broke my addiction to food and I got fulfillment from so many other sensory experiences. However over the years I’ve learned where to get great food, I have a lot more money than I did in the past, and I can basically eat as much and however I want to eat. I would binge on raw vegan bliss balls and love myself through steaming bowls of vegan coconut curry.
Don’t get me wrong, food is beautiful. Totally emotional. And one of the many ways that nature shows us love. However I didn’t want to feel codependent in my relationship with food. I wanted to feel free of an obsession with food. So, I stopped eating.
The last time I did a fast was years prior, and I had a very difficult time with it. A ton of emotional purging and realizing just how much I rely on food for entertainment, comfort, and company.(Read about that here: What I Learned From Starving Myself for Three Days).
This time, I knew what I was getting myself into. I was well prepared, eating very clean for nearly three months, and had done daily coffee enemas for a few weeks. I decided to do gfqa coconut water fast because they grow abundantly here in Costa Rica and are full of minerals, electrolytes, and healthy sugars to keep energy levels high.
During the fast I felt great in the mornings but by late afternoon I felt lonely and bored. My intention was to create more space and now I had to decide what to fill that space with. I learned to feel sensual and pleasured in my body through other means than food.
I spent the day at the beach, scrubbed my body in chocolate, and gave myself coconut oil massages before bedtime. My twice daily coffee enemas gave me dedicated rest time to caress and kiss my own skin. Meditating felt easy and so wonderful. I flushed tremendous amounts of bile, candida, old mucus, and even parasites. I was lighter in every sense of the word.
After five days I transitioned out of the fast with fruit and green smoothies. Eventually I brought back in a healthy mostly raw diet with some cooked vegetables. Now, two weeks later I actually miss being on the fast. I notice how many old food addictions have resurfaced. However I’m trusting that this is just the beginning. Taking things day by day. Loving myself through the waves of addictive desires.
Physically, I see and feel new muscles, my yoga practices feels easier and more effortless, and my poop is about four times as bulky as it was before. I’m continuing to do other cleanses (will perhaps share more on that in the future), transitioning to mostly raw vegan, and I will continue to do whatever I need to do to honor my body and love myself as much as I deserve. Even if that means being less fun to eat out with and less flexible when it comes to travel.
On an emotional level, I’m opening into loving myself and being with discomfort so I’m less inclined to overeat or always turn to food when I need to feel pleasure.
Sharing this frankly feels very vulnerable. I feel some shame in making these choices for my health. I have quite a bit of fear that I’ll be less likable and relatable if I’m not living in “balance” by eating lots of salad but also the occasional pizza or making huge concessions with my diet whenever I travel to experience local culture. Or that I’ll be judged by readers, friends, family, myself, as obsessive or extreme or emotionally unhealthy. I’m not saying this will be my choice forever, but for now, this is what feels right so I choose to trust myself.
The path to embodiment takes so many turns and I’m committed to this journey in becoming the happiest, healthiest Camille I can be.
Right now, this is how it looks.
I wish you the healthiest, most beautiful body in whatever form that means for you.
Here are some of the lovely humans and products that have helped me through this journey:
I’ve been subscribed to her blog for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I actually read her book The Beauty Detox Solution which really gave me hope and put things into perspective. I think her diet plans are way too restrictive for most people, but she has great insights and I LOVE her soil based probiotics for sale on her website. She also has some decent recipes on her blog… but there are better ones out there imho.
Probiotics. SO essential. I recommend:
Kimberly Snyder (my favorite)
Dr Ohirra’s Professional (these are what Dr Greg recommends)
Working with Greg sparked my healing process four years ago when I had my initial natural health awakening. If you’re ready to really dive deep and essentially create your new human, he is the most knowledgeable person I know on this subject. Be ready though, the protocol is extensive and intense.
for showing me how fun and easy it is to make incredible raw food creations.
The lady at the co-op with the beautiful smile and positive attitude who told me that I didn’t need to worry too much about never getting rid of candida, and to forget the fear hype. She told me, just take tons of probiotics.
The lovely ladies at The European Rejuvenation Center who listened to and answered my millions of questions and created a very safe, gentle space to get colonics.
My friends and family for letting me talk about poop way more than seems at all socially appropriate.