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Good Food, Fitness and…Martial Arts?

I’ve lost track of the ‘health phases’ I’ve gone through since being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis back in 2010. I’ve tried to feel better by running, or playing different sports, or changing diets (I’ve had a couple of good shots at the SCD…). The problem is it’s easy when you’re feeling great, but as soon as you start going down hill it’s hard to summon a) the energy needed to get your body moving regularly, and b) the mental strength needed to stay focused on eating well. It’s way too easy to fall into comfort-eating mode, which makes you feel like crap, and even less likely to get back on track…it’s a vicious cycle.

While I was on prednisone I felt invincible. But at the same time, underneath it all, I was completely shattered. Prednisone is wonderful at masking what’s happening below the surface, but when it’s time to come off it you better look out – you’ll be paying for all that fast-paced activity, with interest.

In December my specialist told me he wasn’t giving me any more steroids, that was it, I’m too young for the damage they’re causing. He referred me on to a surgeon, and I’m now on a waiting list to find out about hugely life-changing surgery. I’ve heard all sorts of stories on that front, both good and bad. Personally, I’m not ready to make that call yet.

For the first time since being diagnosed I’m waking up with determination to fight back. The idea of surgery has hit me hard, and made me realise how real this all is. I have a wife and two kids, and I want to live life on my terms, with energy. I don’t want to just try a bit of running here, or a new diet there – I want to do ALL the healthy things. I want to revamp my whole LIFE. Processed and fast foods, gone, sugar, gone, fresh vegetables and whole foods, HELLO. And fitness…BRING IT.

So what’s with the martial arts? I grew up as the son of a Karate instructor, so spent the first 10 years of my life frequenting a dojo. I loved it, but when my family moved cities when I was 10 I never took it up again. 22 years later, I’m ready to start that journey anew. I feel like the focus and determination you gain by studying a martial art are attributes I need to get through this – there’s no way I’ll fight this thing without them.

I’ve enrolled in a local Taekwondo class, and I’m underway. I want to see if a total holistic, physical AND mental approach to health can help me halt the internal self-destruction my body is putting itself through.

Bring it onnnnn.



  1. follow my blog and learn how your body works so that you can get fitness and exercise to work for you!! knowing how the body works is the first step to improving yours!!

  2. Debby

    This is a really interesting piece. When I was going through some terrible flares last year, before I was officially diagnosed, I was determined to work out just as hard as always – I was NOT going to let whatever-this-way derail my fitness. But I’ve learnt subsequently that over-exercising can do more harm than good on UC. What are your thoughts on this? I was doing the Jillian Michaels workouts during my flares (I love them and I wasn’t prepared to stop), but now I realise that maybe that contributed to a worse (and longer) flare. It’s so tough because I hate the idea of ‘gentle walks’ or meditating. No! I want to be fit and ripped šŸ™‚ But sometimes ulcerative colitis has other ideas.

    • Yep, totally agree with what you’re saying – I was training for my first marathon before I was diagnosed and was finishing each run literally blood-soaked, it was just crazy. I was diagnosed with UC shortly after that, and obviously pegged it right back (never did make that marathon!). The problem I have is this – it’s been almost 4 years since I was diagnosed, and I’ve spent that entire time on awful drugs (mainly prednisone and azathioprine). Other than the high-dose prednisone periods I’ve effectively been flaring for 4 years, and neither exercising in balance or not exercising at all has made any difference to me or my condition. I guess for me it’s come down to this – what have I got to lose? They’ve pulled me off prednisone and won’t let me back on it, so while I sit and wait for my surgery consultation I’m left with just my base drug of aza – which seems to be doing nothing at all. What I’m trying now isn’t too radical, it’s just making changes across every aspect of life – I’m hitting my diet, my fitness levels, and my mental state, all at once. It may turn out that I can’t keep it up and that I crash and burn again, but I’ll push hard down this holistic route first. 4 years of flaring has taken its toll mentally as much as physically, and it’s the focus and determination needed for Taekwondo that I’m hoping will become my ally against the mental hits šŸ™‚

      Thanks so much for your thoughts!!

    • Unfortunately not! šŸ˜¦ I did it by the book for a good 2 months, but with not change to my condition at all. Elaine mentions in her book that if you’re not seeing progress after a month it’s probably not going to work for you, but I kept going longer out of desperation. But after 2 months of no progress I just couldn’t do it any longer. How about you?

      • I started the SCD when my brother was diagnosed with UC. He seems to be all better now (thank goodness), but I still continue making SCD-friendly dishes in case he does have a flare up… That way he has recipes that taste good to fall back on. I also can’t have gluten, soy or cane sugar; so, SCD and paleo recipes make me feel relatively good. I’m still a work in progress in terms of finding an optimal “diet” for myself.

      • Awesome to hear he’s feeling well! I absolutely loved the SCD yogurt – still eat it šŸ™‚ You’ve hit the nail on the head with the ‘optimal diet’ thing – everyone seems to be so different with their trigger foods, it’s just a matter of finding what works for you personally.

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