“This whole process opened my eyes to how individual health and wellness is for everyone.”
An Illinois woman lost her period after years of disordered eating and over-exercising. Hoping to conceive and start a family in a natural, healthy way, she and her husband embarked on a radical diet overhaul—and in doing so, changed their bodies, lives, and futures.
Joelle Kurczodyna, 35, lives with her husband Jim, 36, and their three children on a 5-acre home in northern Illinois, and they are expecting a fourth child in March.
In an interview with The Epoch Times, Joelle, who has a degree in dietetics, said she had always been “very healthy and active” as a child. But all that changed when she started restricting her diet and increasing her exercise.
“I was never diagnosed, I was just told to go on the pill to get my cycle back,” she said.
“Early on in our journey, it was tempting to just try a pill or infertility treatment that the doctors told me would work. But I knew, in my gut, that it wasn’t the best option for us. I could have bypassed the hard journey that we endured, the weight gain and the wait. But in doing so, we would have missed out on the tremendous health and growth that Jim and I experienced.”
Once an avid marathon runner, Joelle began controlling her calorie intake as a teenager just to lose a few pounds. And soon her restrictive lifestyle intensified.
“It started innocently enough,” she said. “From the age of 16, I started restricting my eating and increasing my exercise, especially long-distance running. I could easily lose a few kilos, so I continued. I became very conscious of counting calories, choosing low-fat and low-fat items and almost ran every day.”
By her early 20s, she had already lost her bike and weighed about 45 kg or less. She was constantly cold but had hot flashes at night, her hair was thinner and she was more irritable and withdrawn.
She said: “I was 22 when Jim and I got married. I was so wrapped up in this image of being a ‘thin runner’ that the thought of making changes was terrifying. However, my desire to have children was even greater.
“To get pregnant, I needed to get my bike back.”
Choosing the right food
Joelle received support from loved ones as she reassessed her choices. It was her sister, who had graduated from chiropractic school, who introduced her to the concept of an anti-inflammatory diet of whole, unprocessed foods after attending a 2011 seminar on the subject.
After deciding to reclaim her life, Joelle began researching as much online as she could. She discovered the dentist and nutrition expert, Weston A. Price, whose proposed connections between nutritious “real” foods and bodily health caught on.
“As a holistic person, overnight I purged all processed foods from our fridge, freezer and pantry and started shopping for only real, whole foods like meat, eggs, fruit, vegetables and dairy. I also stopped running and switched to walking exclusively, she says.
Joelle learned that she should buy her food locally, so she became a regular at their farmer’s market. She wholeheartedly let her food be her medicine and started eating nourishing foods.
In the first year of eating real food and listening to her body’s natural hunger signals, Joelle gained 18 kg. She struggled to accept her changing body and cried a lot, but her hot flashes disappeared, her hair thickened and she laughed more than she had in a long time.
After 12 months of Joelle’s new regimen, her cycle returned.
“It was so exciting to know that my body finally felt safe enough to get back on my bike after years of stress,” she said. “But I knew I still had a road ahead of me. There were clear signs that my hormones were out of whack and there was more healing to do.
“It took another whole year before we got pregnant and actually had a miscarriage. At that point, I knew my body was still not in an ideal place for conception. So we took the next few months to just focus on nutrition, rest and fun.”
A year after her miscarriage, Joelle and Jim happily became pregnant with their first child – a daughter. They named their baby girl Eloise, meaning “healthy woman”, to reflect their hopes for her.
“Even though it seemed so far at the time, looking back I’m grateful,” Joelle said. “My body had time to do the healing it needed so that when she got pregnant, I came from a food court and was able to give her everything she needed to be a strong and healthy baby.”
Having a child encouraged Joelle and Jim to reevaluate their goals. Together they wrote a “family mission statement” and made their shared values tangible. They already kept chickens, large gardens and a beehive on their 1/3 acre in the suburbs and were immersed in the local food and farm culture, but longed for a home to do more.
“We knew it was the right move for us and our values were to have some land and freedom to really live the country life we were after,” she said.
Today, Joelle and Jim have the plot of their dreams with a dog, two cows, chickens and a few pigs. Joelle homeschools the kids, Jim left construction to farm, and the couple runs a blog together to share insights, tips and recipes: From Scratch Farmstead.
Joelle reflects that the most difficult journeys in life are often the most rewarding.
She said: “This whole process opened my eyes to how individual health and well-being is for everyone. I was quite turned off early on by the simple treatment options I was given by doctors who didn’t seem in any way to address what I was dealing with.
“Some people can have a very healthy pregnancy while being a size 2 – this wasn’t me. My body needed to go through some pretty drastic changes to be ready to support another life. Ultimately, I needed to be my own health advocate… this was a tiring and sometimes lonely road, but it was ultimately empowering to educate myself and be in tune with my body in ways I never knew were possible.”
Share your stories with us at [email protected] and continue to get your daily dose of inspiration by signing up for the Inspired newsletter at TheEpochTimes.com/newsletter