Change of Plans

When I started my latest “plan” of doing the Whole45, I envisioned a similar process to past experiences – rough first week or so then feeling pretty good afterwards with plenty of energy. However, my medical complications, well, complicated things.

I really haven’t felt my best these past few weeks, and I decided to make the conscious decision to start reintroducing some foods after 34 days instead of 45. Though a small part of me was disappointed to not follow-through on the original idea, I made a choice that I felt was best for me given the circumstances. I haven’t reintroduced much – I’m basically eating paleo but not getting bent out of shape about products with some added sugar (e.g. ketchup or a marinade), and I’ve had some rice and a corn tortilla. I also had some wine on the weekend.

The thing I’ve been thinking about the most over the past week or so is what’s next. I pointed out in an earlier post that I don’t want to treat this process like an accidental diet where there is some kind of end date. I truly want to learn what makes me feel best inside and figure out a personalized template to do so.

In an ideal world, I would find a nice 80/20 style approach, eating this way most of the time and having some room for exceptions. The tricky part is that I’m not sure that is my nature. When reading Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before, she talks about knowing yourself and goes on to detail some different types, including moderators and abstainers. Moderators would be the type of person who can, say, have one square of chocolate a day, or only a few chips. Abstainers would be the type of person who cannot compute how one can eat only one square of chocolate or who can polish off a bag of chips in one sitting. In other words, abstainers would do well to never bring the bag of chips or bar of chocolate into the house in the first place.

I think the reason I do so well when I’m “on a program” is because I am an abstainer. It’s why two years ago, I described how I love not having a grey area. And, I think it’s because I find it easier to follow clear guidelines. Because I’m not naturally a moderator.

But, life is long, and food will always be a part of life. I do not think it’s realistic to live the rest of my life (hopefully many more decades) adhering to extremely rigid rules. So, I’m trying to spend some time thinking about how I can work on changing my mindset and making some room in my life for moderation in a way that still helps me feel my best.

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A New Favourite 

This weekend I stumbled upon a recipe posted on social media that looked so good I made it within a few hours. It helped that I had the ingredients, although I did make a couple of adjustments. 

It was Buffalo Chicken Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes. Mine did not look as good as the ones online but they tasted AMAZING.

The only changes I made were omitting the carrots in exchange for more celery, and I didn’t have dill handy. I also used the Instant Pot to bake the potatoes more quickly than using the oven. Also, the recipe called for chipotle mayo, which we technically don’t have but made by combining my homemade mayo with chipotle hot sauce.  

If you are looking for a new, satisfying recipe with a little spice, this is worth a try. It’s also easy to half like we did. 

Hating Graves’ Right Now

When I started to post about my Whole45, I imagined sharing details about the experience, like dealing with dining out, trying new foods and recipes, and how I’m feeling overall. Having done two prior Whole30’s, I knew what to expect, and after the initial week or two, the positive benefits.

This time around has been so completely different because of my recent diagnosis. Graves’ disease is really cramping my style.

Earlier this week was a struggle with dropping energy levels. On Thursday, I finally had a good day without feeling an energy crash. I was pleased. Then Friday, my energy levels still doing alright, my heart decided it wanted to try something different. Around 3:30pm, I started noticing brief intervals of heart palpitations.

My Samsung phone has a heart rate monitor on the back and allows me to track measure my heart rate on demand. So, I checked, and yes, it was high (~150). Within a minute, it was back down (~50). This has happened before, so I wasn’t all that thrown off. However, this continued on and off for a couple of hours. This was all while working at my desk. I wasn’t moving, walking, or getting up and down. Just working on my computer.

The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful, and I had enough energy to go for a walk later. I know heart palpitations are a symptom of Graves’, so I’m not worried. I’m mostly just irritated. I know the medication I’m taking takes a few weeks to make changes, so I’m trying to be patient. I get my blood work done in a few weeks and that will inform how I’m reacting.

I’ve been pretty positive since being diagnosed in June, and as much as I want to continue that sentiment and keep perspective, it would be insincere to pretend I’m not frustrated. So, I’ve decided to let myself feel frustrated and express this frustration. In the meantime, I am trying to treat myself with grace. I won’t beat myself up if I’m not as productive as I would like. If I need to nap, I’ll nap. However, I am still choosing to make good food decisions. Something I can say with confidence is that my insides have not been angry for the past few weeks. And that is something I can feel good about.

Weekend Away

This past weekend I was out of town. It was not the first time I have travelled while completing an elimination diet, but it was the first time I had flown.

Since the first flight was over the dinner hour, I needed to eat something, but I didn’t have time to prepare anything in advance. This meant searching for something I could eat at the airport. Based on the list of places, it was looking slim, but I remembered one place that usually has fresh and healthy options.

I found a salad bar, and while it had been pretty picked over, it was still sufficient for me to keep my hunger at bay. Here’s what I had:

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Yes, 2 hard boiled eggs and a handful of blueberries.

It was quick, I could use my hands, and the blueberries were actually quite delicious.

My weekend away went well because I have supportive family and friends. It was a little hard to watch my friends eat some of the best donuts in town. Literally, there were three dozen gourmet donuts, and people would swoon after a bite. But, the decision was easy. I would stay the course. There will always be donuts. And should I want one later, I will decide then if it’s worth it. Until that point, I’m focused on my health.

My Thyroid and I are Fighting

Over the past few days, I have been feeling pretty bad.

It started with the sensation I feel in my throat before I’m going to throw up. Except I knew my body wasn’t actually going to throw up. Just the sensation. How fun.

Then it was followed by a general feeling of malaise. Very similar to what brought me to the doctor in the first place and ended with a diagnosis of Graves’ disease. This is extremely frustrating as I had been feeling pretty good over the past few months.

I do consider myself fortunate because I have not really experienced the typical symptoms – sweating, palpitations and racing heart, shaking, rapid and unexplained weight loss, etc. I had experienced some heart rate spikes in July, but that was during exercise. Aside from that, my only symptoms have been throat discomfort and feeling car-sick occasionally (regardless of the car).

But, the past few days have been quite uncomfortable.

On Wednesday, I seriously considered stopping my Whole45. I was feeling awful, tired, and stressed out. I hated the idea of stopping but if ever there was a valid reason, autoimmune disorder complications would be one.

After some considerable thought, I decided to stick with it. Here’s why:

  1. The foods that I would have wanted to add would be those that are convenient and quick, which means probably lower in nutritional value. And let’s be honest, when I’m sick or feeling frustrated, the food I  want is comfort food aka emotional eating. I knew this would not improve my health.
  2. A few months ago, I watched a talk online about how our body responds to stress. The speaker noted that typical advice for dealing with stress includes: do yoga, meditate, breathing exercises, etc. And while there is nothing wrong with those things, when you are stressed, these tasks can feel daunting and almost more stress-inducing. But, you can take charge of what you eat and choose foods that are in your best interest. And during this stressful time, it’s helpful to have clear guidelines that simplify decision-making.

Now, it crossed my mind that maybe this process is causing my increased symptoms. I did some reading and there is a section of the book explaining that those with autoimmune disorders may feel a bit worse before feeling better.

And, because I am working with my doctor, I went for blood work yesterday and will see her in a few days, so I’ll discuss it with her. However, I got my lab results and my thyroid hormones  (T3 and T4) are actually now both in range. Which begs the question, why do I feel so bad?

One Week In

I’m currently 7 days into this thing. Or, 15.6%, but who’s counting…

The first week is the hardest. Albeit not as difficult as the first time.

Last year I experienced headaches for a few days as I transitioned off sugar. I was also tired and a bit grouchy. It really wasn’t until after a week or two that I started to feel really good.

This time around, I’m noticing it’s similar but milder. A few headaches, though not too bad, and some days I don’t have much energy. I think the worst of it was on day 4 when I could barely muster the energy to walk home from a trip to the grocery store near my house.

I can tell that my thyroid is acting up a bit, and I’m hopeful that it’s temporary as my body adjusts. I’ll know for sure next week when I go for my next round of bloodwork. It’s not enough to cause concern, just enough to be annoying.

In the meantime, I am finding myself missing sugar. I may have spent some time sniffing the delicious-smelling Hubba Bubba gum in a nearby office at work this morning. Probably not the best idea I’ve ever had.

Accidental Dieting

I recently listened to a podcast that asked the question, “are you accidentally dieting?”.

Specifically, they were referring to when people take on 21-day or 30-day type programs involving real food. The emphasis is on eating real, whole foods and getting away from processed foods and sugar, etc, so ultimately, the food options are higher quality and good for you. But if the mindset is trapped in old patterns, it can be just as restrictive and damaging as other diets.

I found the question particularly impactful because I do believe many people, and even me to some extent, can misuse these programs or fall into dangerous traps.

These programs are supposed to be tools. They should teach participants:

  • To prepare their own food
  • To choose real food instead of highly processed foods
  • To learn what foods may be problematic
  • To learn new habits and break old ones
  • To change your mindset about your food choices

Essentially, doing a program of this kind should be an experiment where you are both the subject and the observer.

But, there are people who use these programs as quick fixes. For example, when I tell people that I lost 15 lbs at the end of the Whole30, it often peaks their interest as a possible strategy to shed some extra weight. Am I happy with that result? Of course, but that’s not the point of the program.

When I listened to this podcast, I asked myself if I was accidentally dieting and just treating this like any other short-term “diet”. I think the answer is a little bit of yes and no.

On the yes side, I do find since my first Whole30 last year, I can be a little like a pendulum and swing from being on it to being off it. I would occasionally get a little giddy that I could have non-compliant foods because I wasn’t following the program. Also, having a specific time period of 30 days does feel like a temporary diet.

On the no side, I look back and realize that I did use the program as a tool. I learned some valuable lessons, including how often my body actually needs food (it’s not every 2 hours) and that when I eat well, I don’t need naps to get me through a long day. And, although I didn’t complete the reintroduction exactly as intended, I did figure out some problematic foods and now avoid legumes 95% of the time. In fact, aside from soy, chickpeas, and peanut butter, I can’t recall a time this past year that I ate any other kinds of legumes. And, I rarely eat soy, chickpeas or peanut butter anymore. I just feel better without them.

Even my grocery list/cart looks completely different. I very rarely go down any of the middle isles. I’ve even starting making my own bone broth and almond milk (and no, neither is difficult to do).

Essentially, I found the concept of accidentally dieting very timely and relevant. It reminds me that this is an elimination diet and a reset to be used as a tool, not a short-term fix. It’s also a good reminder that the reintroduction period is as, if not more, important than the 45 days without these foods groups.