In today’s episode, Angie Venetos shares her Crohn’s Disease journey and how it’s impacted not just the way she views IBD, but life overall. From learning to adapt her workouts by listening to her body, to seeing how strong her support network is from the love of her family and friends, she’s rewriting the story of Crohn’s Disease in her life and is working to share a message of hope, compassion, and awareness.
Angie’s first signs of inflammation in her body, and the onset of Crohn’s, was in late 2017 when she developed psoriasis for the first time in her life and later severe joint pain. That November, she started experiencing more stomach issues and seeing blood when going to the bathroom. With her dad being a gastroenterologist, she was able to quickly get a scope, and in December, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s.
After the diagnosis, she was started on medications and tried to resume her life. Things were going well, but a stressful 2018 resulted in a major flare up that hospitalized her for a month. It was during her stay in the hospital that she realized how deep and strong her support network was. The support and love her family and friends showed her, in addition to her faith, helped her get through the pain and physical disability of it.
Shortly after that, Angie began sharing her experiences and raising awareness for Crohn’s on her Instagram. Prior to Crohn’s, she posted about fitness and her love of weight lifting. But she found herself retreating from social media for a few months during and after her hospital stay. When she was ready to post again, she felt compelled to explain the silence and her 20 pound weight loss that occurred in just a few weeks. Since then, she’s been sharing her IBD journey alongside her fitness journey.
Throughout her time since diagnosis, she’s learned that stress is a major trigger for her and she’s learned the importance of balance and its role in keeping her in remission. Whether it’s working out too much/too hard, focusing too much on work, or overdoing any other part of her life, she knows stress will trigger a flare up. She’s learning to trust herself and listen to her body, knowing when she needs to slow down and honoring that. Having a support system is also beneficial in helping her to slow down. She credits her boyfriend for not being shy about letting her know when she’s working out too much or focusing too hard on work and reminds her to rest!
Though she’s still learning what foods work best for her, she has found that plant-based proteins and plant-based protein supplements make her feel less bloated and gives her energy before working out. She incorporates a variety of supplements in her diet on a daily basis, including Apple Cider Vinegar, collagen, a multi-vitamin, turmeric, gynostemma and milk thistle; when she’s going through a flare up, she incorporates bone broth smoothies.
With fitness being a major part of her lifestyle, she’s had to learn to adapt and be flexible in her schedule. Her weekly routine will usually include weight lifting, running/walking, and yoga, but she’s learned that she now needs 1-2 days off each week. She’s also found that sticking to bodyweight exercises in the morning works well for her and by taking a nap early in the evening after work, she can then get to the gym with lots of energy and have a good lifting session. Angie’s willingness to adapt to the challenges that Crohn’s has given her has helped her to learn to work with her body and not against it. Although Angie makes finding balance and listening to her body look easy, she admits that it’s actually been one of her biggest challenges since being diagnosed – learning to listen to her body and not her head.
In addition to finding and constantly working to achieve balance, she’s had to learn to deal with the emotional stress that comes with IBD. Not knowing what the future holds, but knowing what the potential outcomes may be, causes anxiety that, if not kept in check, can lead to flare ups. It’s taken a shift in mindset to focus on the present moment, to take a step back to simply ask, “am I OK right now.” She uses prayer daily and makes a gratitude list each evening to help put herself at ease.
Having IBD has changed her view on a lot of things in life and has allowed her to become kinder and more compassionate and empathetic about what other people are dealing with in their own lives. But, above all, having IBD has made her want to help others who are going through the same thing. She’s driven to be a voice for those who are afraid to speak up and in sharing her own journey, she hopes that someone else may benefit from it.
Follow Angie on Instagram at: @angie.m.vee