She Holds her Health in her Hands, a Reflection by Shilpa Nandwani
She Holds her Health in her Hands
Reflections by Shilpa Nandwani, worker-owner at Khao'na Kitchen
Think to yourself, "When was the last time I really listened to my body? Like really listened?" Our physical bodies, subconsciousness, bodily health, and mind all coexist with such powerful interconnectedness that we don't pay as much attention to as we should.
For most of my life, I probably spent more time at the doctor's office than I did at school. I used to feel an immense amount of guilt and shame for burdening those around me by being chronically unwell. By the time I became a teenager, I had already convinced myself that somehow it was me who was causing the problem.
But that simply was not the case. I was born with eczema covering most of my body and developed severe food allergies as a newborn. Since then, I have had just about every ailment you can name; from countless ear infections (leading to ear surgery), deviated septum + swollen turbinates (leading to nasal surgery), almost every environmental, animal, and food allergy you can name, angiograms and heart monitors...just to name a few. I always thought the answers to my chronic illnesses would come from the western doctors I frequently visited.
However, twenty-five years later, through a series of trials and errors, relearning/reclaiming and sheer determination, I have finally realized that the key to my overall health actually falls in my hands and inside my body. Without even realizing it, my body and I have been trying to reclaim our overall health. At twelve years old, you would have never seen me eat a leaf of spinach but by nineteen, you would see me with a bowl filled with spinach every day. I would passively watch my dad tune into boxing matches on T.V but by twenty-one, I began actively boxing almost every single day for 2 years. Environmental allergies kept me away from exploring the great outdoors, but by twenty-five, I went on a true hike for the very first time and I loved every single minute of it! From the plastic bags wrapped around my feet inside of my sneakers, to climbing up and down on all fours and grounding myself in the land, no one could have tried to tell past me that future me would be jumping head first into these experiences.
Little did I know that each of these moments actually put me at less risk to dealing with the multitude of complications that come with having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (aka PCOS) such as higher risk of having diabetes, heart disease, and blood pressure. I am finally in a place where I can trust my wellness, my body, and my choices to come off birth control after being on it for almost ten years. I refuse to be the victim of my illnesses, to be ashamed of my diagnoses, and so instead I feel it is important to share my story to open up conversations about experiences that usually do not have a platform or space to be expressed.
It took a lot of unlearning and self-discovery to know that my health is not one dimensional. My health is affected and influenced by every part of me. My body sends me hints, signals, and flat out DANGER warnings and I owe it to myself to listen, respond, and be patient with the layers of healing required within.
By finally feeling empowered and having access to the tools necessary to be my most powerful, strong, and stable self...I realize I am not alone in this journey, and neither are you.
Khao'na Kitchen co-founder, Shilpa Nandwani, is a revolutionary educator and queer chef. She brings insight and innovation from her years of studying mathematics, teaching 8th grade Algebra 1 and cooking for her multitude of food allergies. Shilpa is able to make connections between needing to decolonize mathematics so youth can have access to problem solving while decolonizing our relationship to food to bring back the connection to our roots and the land.