Never Take Your Health For Granted - Raina's Story

By: Raina O'Dell
Top 10 Fitness & Nutrition Coach
Companion Fitness Editor
Instagram: @rainavsfood

Life happens when we least expect it. I've always taken my health for granted. I have been anorexic. I've been bulimic. I've struggled with binge eating. I've been overweight. I've been underweight. As a 20-something, my health was something that I always thought would be there, never worrying that what I was doing to my body would have long-term effects on me and my health. 

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in March 2016 after struggling for YEARS and finally talking a GI doctor into doing a colonoscopy, and it was a wake-up call. I was in an unhealthy relationship, stress consumed my life even though I hid it well, and my health was the least of my worries. I knew I had to make a change and I was committed to losing the 40 pounds that I had gained before my diagnosis. I was told that I could take a medication to control my UC (for the rest of my life, mind you) or that I could try to control it through nutrition & a healthier lifestyle. I AM A HEALTH & FITNESS COACH for God's sake. I knew what the answer should be. .

I spent the next 7 months committing to my workout programs & nutrition plans and listening to my body. I lost the 40 pounds, found abs again, and felt better at 29 than I did at 19. I had my life back and I was addicted to that feeling of HEALTH. I pushed play every single day. I drank my shake, every. single. day... I transformed mentally and physically. 

But, life happens when we least expect it. In October 2016, stress consumed my life in every aspect. My personal life started to fall apart as I divorced my husband. The stress of a separation, kids, work, travel... it all piled on and my body rebelled. I officially went into a full-on UC flare. I spent the next 3 months in pain, struggling with my health and quickly losing weight. I had lost about 20 pounds in 3 months during this flare which put me in the hospital in Jan 2017. Back to medication... it was the only solution to get me out of this flare other than surgery. I started Remicade infusions at an accelerated rate along with 60 mg/day of Prednisone, acupuncture, diet changes, and so many other things to try to control my flare. I started to feel better… slowly.  Got energy back, slowly. I gained weight back, slowly. But it all failed after I returned from an amazing vacation in Punta Cana, my body just shut down.

My body stopped responding to every medication & treatment plan that I was on. I lost more weight, about 15 lbs in 2 weeks and there I was again in the emergency room, weak, fatigued, in pain, and feeling like every ounce of life was being sucked from my veins. I felt like I was slowly dying, as intense as that is to share, I felt it. 103+ fevers, 40 pulse rate, LOW blood pressure, my body was failing. 

3 days later, I had a total Colectomy. I spent 9 (should have been 5) hours in surgery to remove my entire large intestine. My surgeon shared that I had more diseased parts than he had originally thought. My small intestine (all that’s left) was barely big enough to create my J-Pouch but he did it. 8 incisions and an ileostomy bag later, I had my life back. I immediately felt better, more energy, I could eat without pain, I felt like me again. 

In July 2017, I went back into the hospital for my reversal. It was bittersweet as I had an emotional connection with my bag, it saved my life and gave me my life BACK. This recovery has been the hardest, mentally and physically. Mentally, it’s been an adjustment to look in the mirror knowing my body will never look the same as it did before. Physically, because of the fact that my ‘plumbing’ has changed, I struggle with hydration, causing me to get light headed easily and I struggle with getting the nutrition that I need. And TMI, but getting used to going to the bathroom again has been the biggest adjustment. Talk about a humbling experience. 
So here I am, almost 5 months post-reversal, slowly getting my life back. 

Slowly, the weight is coming back on. 

Slowly, I’m adjusting to my new body. 

I’m thankful that I’ve gone through everything I have because I am stronger because of it. I am able to inspire people daily and I can be the reason why someone decides to keep going. 

I was handpicked to go on this journey for that reason, and I’m at peace with it. 

Fitness and health have allowed me to recover as well as I have. It’s been my escape on days when I am struggling. My diagnosis was never an excuse to STOP my fitness routine, it was a REASON to keep going. This is not a one size fits all disease, unfortunately. Everybody is different in what works for them. I’ve found that a low-fiber diet has worked well for me… my body loves carbs right now so I am a huge fan of leaving those in my diet. I drink superfoods daily to help me get the nutrition that I need, and I swear by them. 

Support in this journey is key. I’m lucky to have a supportive family and two daughters (9 & 11 yo) that help me so much. My online family, my followers, I have to say are my biggest inspirations. Every single day, good or bad, my followers check in and are 100% supportive and concerned about how I’m doing. It’s seriously the best feeling to have such an amazing extended family. 

Fun Facts about me: 

I’m an online health & fitness coach - helping people become the best version of themselves to AVOID health issues is my passion. I live in Denver, CO currently, previously San Diego, CA (where my heart still lives) and originally from Kansas City. I love doing anything outdoors… hiking, beach, dog parks, and I love traveling. 

My favorite exercise (I workout at home) would have to be Insanity Max:30. It’s an intense cardio program that just makes me feel STRONG every time I do it. And it’s only 30 minutes/day so that’s a perk, haha! :) 

Brooke Bogdan