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Listen to your Gut, Literally

Dustin White lives for cycling. This is a man who wakes up at 4am on a Sunday to watch coverage of European races. His Instagram feed is full of biking memes and thin men in even thinner racing jerseys. He works part time at a bike shop and is intensely passionate about handlebar height and angle. Apparently, this is very important. You’re not supposed to just ride the first bike you find on Kijiji for 3 hours and hope for the best.

He also has a chronic health condition that wreaks havoc with his digestion if he’s not careful. And he’s lived alone through this whole damn pandemic. “When things first shut down, there was a lot of grief, and then…there was silence in the chaos,” he says. “I started to develop bad eating habits, and then started to drink more than I used to, cause why not?”

When it became apparent that his riding season was derailed, his grief cycle brought him somewhere he wasn’t expecting: a deep dive into getting his gut health under control. “With IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), there’s inflammation in my gut and the bacteria in there doesn’t agree with the food passing through my system,” Dustin explains with refreshing candour on a subject that some folks are embarrassed to talk about. He was diagnosed when he was 18 and is now in his early 40s (although it appears that cycling and/or horrible digestion has slowed the aging process; his unlined skin gives nothing away).

In the vacuum of time that has been the last 18 months, Dustin started to think about how eating one thing can affect him for days afterwards. He started slowly adding in foods that help his gut, like fermented veggies, and avoiding dairy. Turns out he was lactose intolerant. Don’t worry, he has confirmed that while he misses cheese, he suffers through the consequences of eating pizza. Some things are worth the price you pay.

The changes in his life are noticeable and myriad.

His moods are improved: “It seems like I’m the only one at the office who didn’t have a solid three-week depressive episode during the pandemic.”

His body is working better: “I track all my cycling times and I can quantify that I am a better racer when my gut is happy.”

His other habits came along for the ride: “When I started this, it was natural to also start focusing on my sleep, my downtime, my hobbies and my stress levels.”

“I wish I knew sooner what a difference I could make by taking care of myself,” he admits. “Prioritizing myself has an eye-opening experience. People don’t give themselves permission to know themselves. Once you do, you can make a list of good foods and then just…don’t trigger a bad day for yourself. Winning begins in the kitchen, you know.”

Spoken like a man who can’t wait to get back on the road and race.

small//shift: Listen to your Gut, Literally. This isn’t about a diet, or restricting your intake, it’s about trying some healthy changes and paying attention to what happens next. Your beautiful, strong, capable body will thank you.

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