The Courage to Be Vulnerable: My Untold Story

The story I’m about to share is the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever done.

Fear tends to accompany vulnerability, especially when we’re putting our WHOLE selves out there into the world.

Fear of rejection.

Fear of judgment.

Fear of being “too much.”

But I have to share this.

Because what I’ve experienced over the past five years has been a gift.

It has happened for me, not to me.

It’s my responsibility to be open enough to find meaning in my journey and to use it for good.

So, with that, here’s the story I’ve never told until now.

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I swore it would never happen again.

That I would never gain back the weight. That I’d never wear “those” clothes again.

I remember five years ago when I started proudly packing up all of my old clothes that no longer fit. I’d lost so much weight that I had gradually amassed a brand new wardrobe.

I hadn’t thought it was possible to get back to the weight I was in high school, but I had. The last time my body was this size, I was playing competitive soccer. I couldn’t believe it. I thought my body was destined to be the size it had become, but I had proven myself wrong and surprised myself.

In addition to losing weight, I had uncovered the root causes of other nagging body issues like congestion, allergies, acid reflux, and other digestive discomfort and had adjusted my diet to get rid of the triggers.

My body was more adaptable than I’d ever thought possible.

I felt good – better than ever. I was happy and for the first time in years, I loved going shopping to try on clothes. Nothing was tight. I had dropped a size or two.

I was proud of what I’d accomplished.

And I was convinced it was where my body was meant to be.

For years, I didn’t even think about my weight. I naturally maintained my weight and even lost a few more pounds, without much effort. In one of my most read blog posts ever about how I lost 20 pounds and kept it off, I wrote about what I did to lose the weight.

I had never gotten attention for my body before.

I welcomed the praise.

The “You look great/so good/amazing!” and “Have you lost weight??” comments fed my ego and my sense of worthiness. I had been employed as a Corporate Wellness Specialist for years, but now I looked the part.

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I started to tell my story of how I had lost weight and gotten off of acid reflux medication after a decade of taking it every day.

My story became my identity – “Wellness Consultant Drops 20 Pounds and a Decade of Taking Medication.”

But, as the body tends to do, mine started to change.

During the winter and spring of 2013, I hit my lowest weight. I had completed coursework about the benefits of a plant-based diet, which I had adopted years earlier when the weight loss began. What I learned caused me to stop eating animal products. I had cut out dairy a few years prior, as I found out it was one of my trigger foods, but now I wasn’t eating meat, poultry or even eggs.

My body started whispering to me, sending subtle signals that something wasn’t quite right.

I had lost weight everywhere, including my chest.

I looked more like a 14-year-old girl than a 28-year-old woman.

My libido was MIA.

My menstrual cycle was irregular.

Then, in August 2013, my body ceased whispering and started shouting.

“That time of the month” stopped coming.

For 7 months.

Seven long months.

And, no, I wasn’t pregnant.

Bill and I knew we wanted to have kids one day, but if that system wasn’t working, I wasn’t sure how it would be possible.

I switched OB/Gyns. I met with a natural fertility specialist.

I started seeing Dr. Mary Jo Fishburn, an acupuncturist and integrative medicine doctor. She had me complete a series of tests called Genova NutrEval to help us arrive at some answers about what wasn’t working in my body.

The tests would give us key information about five core nutrient areas: antioxidants, B vitamins, digestive support, essential fatty acids, and minerals.

The results came back.

I was devastated.

They were coded stoplight-style – red, yellow, green – and I was “in the red” on over a dozen key nutrients.

My body wasn’t breaking down and absorbing proteins.

We started looking at the food sources of each of those nutrients.

“But I’m eating most of those,” I responded. I ate plenty of spinach, kale, almonds, quinoa, and other nutrient-rich foods.

I was so confused.

What was happening inside my body?

I had just about stopped eating animal products, a major source of B vitamins and amino acids for most people, and the decade of acid blockers had messed with my body’s ability to properly use vitamin B12.

Years of taking antibiotics and acid blockers and consuming foods that were compromising my immune system had interfered with my body’s ability to break down and absorb nutrients from my food.

I had become malnourished.

It sounded like such a harsh word, but my test results supported it.

“You might need to gain some weight,” she suggested.

I had never been told by anyone that I was underweight. I never thought of myself as being “too thin.”

But I was. I appeared to be doing everything right from the outside, but my body wasn’t okay on the inside.

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But what would happen if I gained weight?

What would people think??

I had lost weight, kept it off, and was telling my story everywhere I went.

It had become part of my identity.

If I gained weight, people would notice.

Would they question my credibility to speak and teach about what to eat?

Would I lose their trust in me and my position as an “expert”?

Then, the internal name-calling began:

Imposter.

Fraud.

The fears began to overwhelm me, but I knew I had to keep moving forward.

I couldn’t keep ignoring my body’s signals.

My doctor referred me to a nutritionist, Kasia Kines, who I started seeing in January 2014.

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She put me on therapeutic doses of high quality supplements to begin replenishing and rebuilding my body’s stores of nutrients.

I slowly began reintroducing animal products into my diet. I made sure they were high quality – grass-fed, organic, pastured, etc. It started as a once a week thing and then built up.

Because of what I’d done to my body, my stomach acid production was deficient – something that is common among people who have acid reflux – but is misdiagnosed as excess acid. I was put on a hydrochloric acid supplement to take with protein-containing meals.

My body began responding.

My appetite returned.

I didn’t realize it, but for years, I hadn’t felt true hunger. I had been taking some form of medicine for acid reflux since I was 19 and had essentially shut down my stomach acid production. With the acid reintroduced to my stomach, my body could properly break down proteins into building blocks for the first time in years.

The ultimate gift came a few short weeks after starting with Kasia.

In January 2014, after waking up early one morning to use the restroom, I ran into our bedroom and shouted to Bill, “I’m a WOMAN again!!”

I couldn’t believe it.

I had hope.

My body was starting to cooperate, but I was still very irregular.

I brought my concerns back to my nutritionist.

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to have kids,” I told her, as a tear rolled down my cheek.

What she said next hit the deepest part of my being. She told me to repeat this phrase to myself whenever I was feeling discouraged:

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Oh, how I needed to hear that. 

And, oh, how it broke me.

She had no idea how profound and inspiring those words would be for me for years to come.

As my body started absorbing nutrients and with the guidance of my doctor and nutritionist, I started to gain weight. I opened myself up to the possibility that doing so could help me reach my ultimate goal.

My cycle finally regulated itself in October 2014 and has been on track on a monthly basis ever since.

But with it has come weight, something I’ve emotionally struggled with over the past year. I now wrestle with the fear that losing too much weight will send me back to the female issues I’ve recently overcome.

I’ve been making a conscious effort to shift my mindset about what has happened and what it means. Insights from books by Brene Brown, Geneen Roth, Marc David, and Elizabeth Gilbert have helped and have inspired me to face my body fears.

Instead of judging myself and feeling self-conscious or crying in the mirror when I don’t fit into an outfit I wore a year ago (been there, done that), I’m trying to focus on recognizing and appreciating everything my body does for me.

It wakes up each morning, so I can take on a new day.

My heart beats and my lungs bring oxygen every second.

My hair and nails are strong.

My cycle is back on track.

My skin has improved.

My reflux is still gone.

I have energy all day long.

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Photo cred: Laura Toraldo Photography

I’ve had the best year ever in my career.

My nutrient levels are back in healthy ranges.

In the midst of pushing myself physically, mentally and emotionally, my immune system kicks on to fight the bad guys trying to slow me down.

I can’t remember the last time I was sick.

I’m more in tune with my body and what it’s trying to tell me than ever before.

I’m doing my best to love this one precious, beautiful body I’ve been given.

Even when it confuses me.

Even when it frustrates me.

Even when I catch a glimpse of a picture of my once malnourished body in a dress that no longer fits.

In those moments, I remind myself of my nutritionist’s words of wisdom:

“What a journey you have had!

We are human. We do have to honor our bodies.

They are not at fault.

Other things are.

Just be gentle and forgiving.

It is doing its best for you!

It always has.”

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24 Comments

  1. Tori Butler

    You are amazing and I love you beyond words. I am so proud of you!

  2. Marcia Smith Preusser

    You are soooo much more than what you see in the mirror,Rachael. You are an inspiration, be gentle with yourself you are allowed to be venerable. Trust in the Lord and also in you and he will give you the desires of your heart

    • Thank you, Marcia! It feels incredibly liberating to put my truth out there. I am honored that it’s resonating with so many people!

  3. thanks so much for sharing!!

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read this, Anna! It means so much. I know how much you value health and well-being as well as family and community, so thank you for all you do to lead by example and live so joyfully and vibrantly! <3

  4. Thank you for sharing Rach! You are such an inspiration girl, I know this was a hard one to tell. Proud of you. xx

    • Hey, Jami! Thank you so much! I love what you are doing in the You vs. The Year FB group – YOU are an inspiration and game changer as well! So glad to know you <3

  5. Heather Sinclair

    You are a beautiful inspiration. I can see your heart in your words. Wonderful. Thank you for sharing with us Rachel! <3

    • I’m going to write that down in my journal whenever I need a reminder, Heather! THank you so much for sharing that. It’s amazing what healing can come from honesty about what we keep inside. I’m grateful to have people like you in my life who take the time to let me know how it resonates with you. Looking forward to seeing you more in 2016!

  6. Kim Quatela

    Love the rawness and honesty… Praying for a beautiful journey. You speak to the hearts of so many of us!

    • Oh, thank you, Kim! I’ve spent too many years in my head and with judgment and hurt, and putting it out there so others can connect and find their own truths and meaning is what excites me. Thank you for writing and Happy New Year to you and your family!

  7. Denise Madden

    Thanks for sharing your “untold story” Rachel-that took a lot of courage. Thanks for your inspiration to so many others. God’s blessings to you and your family this coming year.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read it and to share your thoughts with me. It was something I’ve wanted to share for a while but the words never came together until now. Thank YOU for being so supportive of the work that I do! I hope 2016 is your best year yet!

  8. Beth Jakubiak

    Hi Rachel- you are wise beyond your years and are a true inspiration. I always learn from you- thanks so much for sharing! xoxo

    • Oh, thank you so much, Beth! It’s so great to hear from you. I miss working with you. I appreciate you taking the time to read it and am glad it resonated with you! It’s been on my heart to share for some time, so I’m glad I finally had the opportunity. Happy New Year to you and your family!

  9. Jill

    I am so proud of you! And instead of thinking your story is a fraud….your story just continues. Thank YOU!

  10. Nancy Bryant

    Honey, you are just such a beautiful human being inspiring all of us women to love our bodies. It almost brought me to tears the statement your doctor told you to repeat over and over. I believe in you and always will!

  11. Rebecca

    Boy am I so glad we met! I loved reading your story and I know that SO MANY women can relate to different parts of it. It’s amazing how we, as women particularly, get socially applauded for being thin, even though it often (not always) means we’re preoccupied with food, consumed with guilt, malnourished, over-exercising, fretting, worrying, and doing all those other things it takes to keep our body at a weight it’s not designed to settle at. The more we can all speak our truth about this, the more we make a safe space for others to do the same. I am familiar with the freedom of FINALLY trusting, re-establishing balance and enjoyment with food, and then letting my body go wherever it knows it needs to go. It’s such a gift! Thanks for sharing.

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      Me, too!! I feel like we are kindred spirits. Thank you so much for taking the time to read the post and for leaving such kind comments. It’s an honor to be in this space as people who are offering freedom, acceptance, and new life to people around food, their bodies, and their lives overall. Thanks again, Rebecca!

  12. Corina

    THANK YOU for this post. It is powerful. Bodies are precious. They should not be minimized or objectified or used as measure of worth. They should be strong to help neighbors. They should be treated with love so they can act in love. Thank you for spreading your experiences.
    -Corina

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      Corina, you’re welcome! Yes, our bodies are so precious, and it’s so easy to fall into the trap of taking them for granted or beating them up with our thoughts. I’m so glad you found the post to be helpful and touching. It’s my mission to spread hope, healing and light into the world and to share my journey with the goal of helping other people. Thanks so much for your kind words and for taking the time to read that post. Here’s another that might resonate with you about my most recent challenge and lessons learned: http://rachelsnourishingkitchen.com/the-gift-of-sickness-ebv/

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