Joyful Living (and Eating)

In Gluten-Free Living, Hashimoto's by HaT1 Comment

Hey everyone, this is Heidi here again today. This is a long post for our blog—so kudos to you if you read the whole thing! In a nutshell, learning to clean up our house (aka, joyful living) has taught us a lot about cleaning up our diet (joyful eating). It’s been a journey—and we’ve learned a ton. 

Tidying our Space

A little over a year ago, Taft and I embarked on a tidying marathon, using the KonMari method outlined in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy. I see a lot of changes in our physical space since we went through all of our belongings, one at a time, and determined whether or not they brought joy into our lives.

Probably most of the changes aren’t obvious to visitors, especially when our toys are still scattered across the main living spaces after a busy day of play. But when I open my closet, I no longer agonize over the clothes I see hanging there. Those pants I bought that never fit right. The shirt that I loathe but would feel guilty sending to Goodwill. And our papers are in much better order—I no longer have a box full of files that are “sentimental” but haven’t been opened in years. Most of the papers we have kept are in clear plastic sleeves in binders, where we can easily find and enjoy them. The list goes on and on.

Changing Our Thought Process

In the beginning, I had a hard time understanding how Marie Kondo could promise that someone who really and truly completed her program would never revert to clutter. It seemed, quite frankly, impossible. Now, Taft and I didn’t tidy under Marie Kondo, just with the instructions in her book, so I’m not pretending that we’re immune to clutter. We’ve done our best to tidy thoroughly, but we aren’t experts. What has been shocking to me has been the change in the way I think and perceive my belongings.

A few weeks ago as I was folding laundry (in thirds or fourths to stand upright in our drawers—yes, I’m hooked), I had a startling realization. A couple of items popped out at me, and I suddenly had the nagging feeling that they might not “spark joy.” I chose not to take them out of my drawers that day—after all, they had sparked joy last spring when we went through every item one by one. The next week as I folded laundry and put it in the drawers, I noticed the same feeling. Finally, I pulled the items out and added them to our Goodwill box, and just like that, my clothing felt like it was in order again.

It’s surprising how often this happens in little ways. Over time, I find that we gradually have fewer of the items we kept during our tidying marathon. We don’t necessarily have less stuff, but we make room for new things that bring us joy, like different toys and clothing in bigger sizes for our little one. We are still savers, tucking away the things we love that he’s outgrown, with the hope of someday in mind—because that saving and hoping also bring us joy.

We’ve also changed the things we buy. For example, we’re better at shopping for clothes; if something doesn’t fit right or if we don’t like the style, we’re more likely to notice before we choose to buy or keep it. Things still shrink or stretch or turn out different than we expected, but our batting average is a lot better.

I can tell we haven’t arrived at the final destination, a totally clutter-free life, because I’ve noticed certain things that are starting to bother me (and that I’m working on as I can). For example, I’ve noticed how cluttered our computer files are. Do I really need these PowerPoint slides from my college classes? Why didn’t I delete these before?

What I’ve discovered is that, in life, lasting results don’t usually usually come from quick fixes or easy solutions. If I want our home to be tidy (not just clean, but tidy deep down), I have to dig deep and go through everything.

“Tidying” My Diet

As I’ve worked with a functional medicine doctor to address my autoimmune problems (Celiac Disease and Hashimoto’s), my thoughts about food and the KonMari method keep colliding.

I’ve been offered some “quick fixes” for my thyroid troubles, a band-aid if you will. My family doctor was willing and ready to prescribe a synthetic T4 medication. I would have had a small copay and a small pill to take each morning. In short, a very small financial and personal sacrifice.

My belief was that taking this approach would likely offer some immediate relief but that the long-term effects would not be what I wanted—or needed—to be truly healthy and happy. In terms of tidying, it felt a lot like a new storage system to sweep my clutter out of sight.

Not every quick fix comes in the form of a prescription from a doctor. Other quick fixes could be supplements or essential oils or just about anything that offers results with a minimum of effort.

That’s not to say any of these products are bad—a lot of them are great! I’m a huge advocate of using supplements and essential oils to help treat symptoms. I even support using synthetic medications when that’s the best answer for the patient (in fact, it’s plausible that someday, that will be part of the answer for me).

What I need at this very moment, however, is to dig really deep. To make some short-term sacrifices to achieve what I hope will be lasting results. Between celiac disease and Hashimoto’s and some leaky gut problems, my immune system has become highly reactive. In addition to gluten (obviously a problem with celiac), I have an autoimmune response to some well-known culprits, such as dairy, as well as some surprising foes, such as tomatoes and potatoes.

I’d already tried to “tidy” my diet once before by myself (remember our almost Whole30 last summer?), and the results were good—but not enough. As I’ve worked with my functional medicine doctor, I’ve started to realize some of the reasons—factors I never discovered on my own, like reacting to tomatoes—why this experience is so valuable to me.

Taft interviewed my doctor, Dr. Durr, as part of his 1000 interviews goal on his personal blog. One of the things that really got me thinking was this: “The biggest difference between chiropractic care and functional medicine as compared to allopathic medicine is that we have to ask the patient to make lifestyle changes. This is something that medical doctors are very hesitant to do. It also requires a lot of work on the doctors part and the patient’s part.” (Read the full interview here.)

A lot of people are surprised by the radical changes I’ve made in my diet, and to be honest, sometimes I’m a little surprised too. It’s surprising to look back and see yourself as the child who went to birthday parties and ate pizza and cake with everyone else, to see yourself as the college student who got excited about going out with roommates to get free pancakes and watch a parade, to see yourself as who you were and what you ate in the past… And then to see yourself now as somebody who eats lots of protein and veggies, who thinks about when and what starchy vegetables to eat, and reminds herself not to snack on fruit to avoid blood sugar spikes.

In effect, I’ve been decluttering my diet. I can’t follow the KonMari method exactly, but a lot of the principles are the same. I’m eliminating foods that don’t bring me true joy. I may love eating them or find them to be comforting, but deep down they aren’t making me—or my body—happy. With time, I’ll get to re-examine many of those foods, one at a time, and determine whether they belong in my new joyful eating life.

And I think, in the end, it will be a truly joyful process.



  1. Distinguishing between foods that bring comfort and those that bring true joy–that seems very wise, and very worth the effort!

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