Category: diet

It’s a slippery slope… How I turned to the Autoimmune Protocol

If you’ve ever stopped in to this blog before, you know that I frequently talk about what is ailing me or what new diet I [a] want to try or [b] am currently on.  When I look back or even think about its totality, I get it; it’s a rather self-absorbed rambling rant, but it’s not really for you, it’s for me…. to keep track of progress, major setbacks or victories, what’s working and what’s not working.  It’s only for you if you: share a problem, you stumble upon this blog, and we can help one another in any way.  That is why I share in a public forum.  I have gained so much knowledge and support through the Internet, I cannot imagine tackling a chronic illness without it.  I truly came into my own in my forties and I continue to grow wiser/calmer/happier in my fifties.  I was thrown a bit of hardball with the RA diagnosis, but what the heck, it made me forget about menopause. Menopause, smenopause, if I can thrive with Rheumatoid Arthritis, menopause is not even on the radar.

So, a couple of years ago, I lost almost 50 pounds and I was on top of the world.  Then someone stole my wings https://kimmstree.com/2014/06/07/maleficent/ and over the next couple of years, I slowly and painfully gained over half of it back.  It feels like more since I also lost some lean muscle as I could not walk/zumba/hike/run like I used to.  I cannot blame this all on the RA, making unhealthy food choices is a slippery slope that once you begin to slide down seems like a super slide with no stopping mechanism.  Sugar and simple carbs are poison to me; I know this.  When I eat them, I am medicating with food.  I have done this my entire life.  My Mother and Grandfather taught me.  Food was comfort, food was reward, food was a drug, and food was an ever present focus.

You cannot read about health issues or autoimmunity [I already have at least 2 autoimmune diseases], without learning that our gut is the new center of our health.  Hippocrates, was evidently, right all along when he said “all disease begins in the gut.”  Our microbiome is as messed up as our planet.  I discovered a couple of years ago that gluten and I didn’t get along and I cut it out. It was no picnic in the beginning, but I am used to it now.  I have become quite creative with alternative flours and grains, but I know that I am still allergic to something because of persistent rash on my thigh that reacts to my food intake by inflaming and healing in turns.  I suspect I may be sensitive to other grains, lignans, dairy, or eggs.

October is an auspicious month for me.  It’s my birth month and I have had two successful beginnings on October 6th. October 6, 1999, I stopped smoking and never looked back.  October 6, 2013, I began using Take Shape for Life/Medifast and lost almost 50 pounds in 5 short months. So, on Monday October 5th, I began the Autoimmune Protocol.  It basically removes anything that might be allergenic or that tends to promote leaky gut for at least 30 days- it is easier to say what I can eat than what I cannot.  I can eat fresh unprocessed meats, broths, vegetables that are non legume, and fruits that are non citrus.  I cannot have coffee, sugar of any kind, nuts, seeds, or grains, eggs, or dairy.  I am allowing myself only one grain and that is a bit of brown rice, and only if the brown rice is soaked, slow cooked in coconut oil, and then refrigerated for 8-12 hours.

I’m on day 5 and I feel more energized already.  Seriously, once the sugar is gone for a few days, it no longer has power over me and I feel back in control.  I’ll be writing this month to record how this elimination protocol is going and how I reintroduce foods.  If you have tried it yourself, I’d love to hear from you or get a link to your blog.

Wicked Wheat

This morning I awoke to a swollen ring finger joint that hurts when I bend it or even when I touch it.  My knees ache and my feet ache when I walk.  Blissfully, my shoulder pain has subsided, but my left elbow is still sensitive to touch and my right thumb is painful to bend [so I don’t bend it].

My rash had receded, my joints were beginning to quiet.  I had started back on plan and had a string of wheat-free, low-carb days only to hear a siren song of cake last night at a home party I attended.  The host said, “you must taste my Preacher’s Cake- homemade with pineapple and nuts- I found the recipe on Pinterest.”  I guess she had me at Pinterest, because delectable cake images flashed across my mind at that moment.  “Just a tiny slice,” I said, because I am apparently deep in denial that wheat actually is the primary cause of these myriad ailments- joint pain, skin rashes, congestion, fatigue.  I say that I believe that wheat is the culprit, with my mouth, but I don’t say it yet with my behavior because either at some level I am in denial or I have not reached a bottom that would allow me to say ‘no more.’

I know that I must sound like the whiniest of the whiny with this blog focused so much on my eating and health worries, but I don’t conceptualize myself that way.  I see myself as strong and stoic and hardy.  I am also a natural detective and so I find myself trying to ferret out the cause of any symptoms that make my life harder or give it lesser quality.  I don’t trust doctors, and given the clusterf*@% that is autoimmune disorders and the way my Hashimoto’s is misunderstood by doctors who insist they know how much and what kind of thyroid replacement I need, I prefer to treat myself with diet and exercise whenever I can and be ready to tell health professionals which direction to point when I am forced to sit on the crinkly paper in their offices.

I believe that the progest/estrogen compounded cream is helping in general and I think with my joint pain in particular, but every time I eat wheat, I exacerbate symptoms and get sent back to square one or at least square 5 or 10.  Last night as I walked to my car after the party, literally 30 minutes after ingesting wheat, I found myself itching intensely in my stomach and chest, and I thought, “oh, &*@%.”

Trial and error has shown me over the past two years that my body cannot process sugar and carbs in any kind of an efficient manner, and that I feel best when I eat paleo and minus processed wheat and sugars.  Unfortunately, I don’t live in a paleo world. I live in Roxboro, NC, where there is a processed/simple/carb around every corner and at every event.  There is no health food store.  I have to drive to Whole Foods in Durham to find the coconut milk I like, the one with vanilla flavor and no sugar.  I can’t find good quinoa here or any alternative flours.  The restaurants do not lean heavily on fresh green ingredients, although I do have some places I can get a quick salad that passes the muster.   It takes a tremendous amount of planning to stay on plan, especially when I am busy and/or stressed.

If you eat paleo, have Hashimoto’s, are near menopause, or feel like you have wheat sensitivities, feel free to weigh in.  I’d love to hear what works for you and share some tips and recipes.  Message me.  We’ll talk.

H.A.L.T.

Okay, so if you follow me, you may have noticed that I changed the name of my blog again.  Acknowledged.  And, we are just going to leave it at that.  If you know me, you’ll figure it out.

I wanted to comment on a new acronym I learned from a friend who is in recovery:  H.A.L.T., which stands for hungry, angry, lonely, tired.  Sidebar:  I am fascinated by addiction and recovery for myriad reasons.  One, I own that I have addict-like behavior where food is concerned.  I spent the better part of my adult life medicating with sugar/fat and white flour.   Two, I have lived with and loved an addict.  Three, I think the majority of us are addicts in some form or shape, we just use different substances/behaviors to mask our pain–  some people shop, some people take risks or have affairs, some people medicate with food, some people have addictive behavior associated with religion, and the list is endless….

So, I learned that people in recovery use this acronym as a gauge to determine how susceptible they might be to using/falling into addict-like behavior[s].  If you are experiencing at least two of these at any given moment, then you are at risk for relapse.  If you have more than 2, you might need to call your sponsor or head to a meeting.

I have been working on losing weight and gaining optimal health [with the goal of ultimately leaving behind my addictive relationship with food] since October.  I am experiencing success.  It’s up and down, but it’s success nonetheless.  I have had some planned cheats, admittedly some of these turned into snowball situations.  And, I have also had some times when I just went suddenly AWOL for no apparent reason.  Obviously, I continue to have addict style behaviors where food is concerned.  Reflection upon those times where I have gone off the end of a cliff so to speak, shows that I indeed was experiencing at least two of these four apocalyptic horsemen each time I derailed.  Angry is sometimes just frustrated or irritable.  Tired is a big trigger for me.  Lonely is a no brainer- I rarely go off a cliff with witnesses.  Hungry, well, when you’re trying to head off a diet catastrophe, hunger would certainly be a big factor.

TSFL is a plan that helps by making sure that you keep your blood sugar stable and that you eat small and very frequent ‘meals’ [I understand that it’s a stretch to call them meals].  It is also a plan that focuses heavily on community.  Having a coach and a community of support goes a long way to keeping me from becoming lonely and I know that I have people I can call on at any time to talk me off a ledge or alter my perception in a positive way.  I am finding out as I go along, that sleep is more important than I ever imagined.  Research shows that getting less sleep can increase your appetite and make you actually consume more calories.  My motivation and energy wane when I get less than 6 hours of sleep a night, especially over a period of time.  Luckily, this plan and its mild ketosis offers extra energy, but I have to be careful not to get tricked into thinking I don’t need my 7+ hours of sleep a night.  Anger, I have found, retreats during times of mild ketosis and I get into a calm zen state, however, whenever I do choose to cheat and go out of ketosis, I know that I will deal with anger/frustration/irritability again as I walk through that tough place between eating off plan and going back in to ketosis.  Those have been some of my most trying moments.

So, remember H.A.L.T.  whatever your addiction might be.  Keep yourself nourished– physically and spiritually.  Stay in community and relationship with others.  Have strategies to deal with anger and frustrations when they arise.  Love yourself.  ❤

Back on the Bus

Okay, so I am going to talk about food again; specifically, what happens when you go off plan and then come back on.  So, just a pre-warning, in case you are sick to death of hearing about my current eating proclivities, that’s where this is going.  I started on plan on Oct. 2nd, and did not have my first cheat until Christmas.  It was then, that I made my first discoveries about my body’s reaction to carbs and about how taste and preference and habits can change.  I have had another cheat [actually two in a row sort of] and so I feel compelled to talk about what this has taught me so far.  The reason I feel a need to share this is because when you have been on plan for a long time [ie.. longer than a few weeks or a month] and you are thinking about going off plan, you wonder things like: “How is this going to make me feel?” or  “How much weight might I gain?” or “How damaging is this to my overall progress or my health in general?”  I had many more questions than this, but you get the idea.  I actually googled some of these questions trying to find out if others had written about their experiences with going off and back on plan.  Hopefully, this will help others who are faithfully following their plan and making wonderful progress toward their goals to decide if, when, and how they might go off plan and then come back on.  It can possibly just give you more points for your risk-to-benefit ratio list.

****

The trajectory of this post will change due to some influences over the past week, not the least of which has been Daniel Cox [I’ll end this post on a video note from him].  I will, however, continue with my original direction for a moment by saying that I chose Valentine’s Day as a planned cheat day.  I love chocolate so very much that having a planned cheat day helps me to keep from caving to temptation by allowing me to say “later” instead of “no, thank you.”

On Valentine’s Day, I was only able to wait until about 1:30 pm before I caved to temptation.  I had a little smartly decorated brown paper sack on my desk full of goodies and I chose one of my very favorites to indulge in:  A 3 in. Hershey chocolate bar.  I love chocolate and appreciate fine chocolate, but I am also devastatingly loyal to Hershey.  There is something about the taste and the melt point and the teeth sink, especially in these little bars that are slightly thicker than a traditional bar and not as thick as a kiss, that does me in.  So, I took that first bite…. and …. o. m. g.  …. it was so wonderful!  I ate that mini Hershey bar so much faster than I intended to. Before I knew it, I had eaten four of them; yes, I said 4 of them!  I then began stuffing candy into my mouth like Charlie Bucket.  The next piece was a Reese’s peanut butter heart, which was oh so forgettable followed by one of those long skinny Tootsie Rolls.  Now, when I got to the Tootsie Roll, I was able to stop and take stock and realize that it didn’t even taste remotely pleasant.  It tasted sort of plastic and watery sweet– so underwhelming that I spit it into the trash after only chewing for a few bites.  After this orgy of candy eating, I felt slightly nauseous and out of control.   I was horrified that I could be so seemingly in charge for so many weeks only to behave like a fiending junkie when faced with the opportunity to indulge in a planned cheat.  What I learned?   Candy, specifically chocolate candy, is a trigger food that makes me behave like a shameless, unconscious addict.

Later that day, I continued my planned cheat with wine at supper [first glass since September] and Lily’s pizza [2.5 slices] followed by buttered popcorn and Nestle’s Bunch-a-Crunch at the movies.  The wine was heavenly as was the pizza, especially that pillow-like crust that sent waves of pleasure through my entire body.  If it sounds like I have a sexual relationship with food, it’s because I do; you are not imagining this.  Now, the Bunch-a-Crunch and the popcorn were  big let downs, probably because I had already indulged so much this day that I had reached a saturation point of sorts, but more likely because they never were really that good and I am just realizing this.  What I learned:   good pizza is really wonderful and so is a great glass of Riesling after a five month absence, but I wasted a lot of time pining for popcorn and Bunch-a-crunch when it is not really that good, and finally, carbs make me incredibly sleepy and behave just like narcotics in my body.

Next day, I felt really ready to go back on plan and I did, but then came Saturday when Bean and I and the kids were out of town at a getaway to the Great Wolf Lodge where we found that our hotel had its very own Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizza Hut, and Dippin Dots outlets.  Bean said he might not stay on plan while we were there and I found myself encouraging him by saying, “oh, that’s fine, I might not either.”  Lesson learned- coming recently off a cheat makes me more susceptible to cheating again [it’s a slippery slope, folks] and being the addict that I am where food is concerned I found myself in rationalization mode.  Good habits die hard, though, and so this day became about the battle between good and evil inside of me.  I carried my OP snacks and water about and watched Bean and little beans eat fries, corn dogs, and chicken tenders and I walked around the water park irritable and complaining about the lack of a lazy river, about the temperature, about the wetness of everything [really], but even when faced with Cracker Barrel for supper, those good habits were still winning battles when I chose a low-carb option of a burger and turnip greens for supper.  I was full and satisfied and did not need another thing that evening, but I lost my head again when sitting in the lobby of this den of temptation and it was me [I know, I cannot believe it or that I am admitting this] who suggested that we go downstairs and have ice cream in a waffle cone and then wake up to a breakfast of Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee.  I suddenly had gone off the edge.  I was in free fall and ready to make poor choices for the remainder of the weekend.    Note:  the ice cream was forgettable and not worth eating.  I fell into a carb fueled sleep but woke anticipating those donuts.  The donuts were really good- Dunkin’ Donuts knows how to make ’em and when they are fresh, they are divine.  I found myself having a much better day in the water park.  Bean commented, “wow, you seem so much more relaxed today.”   The connection was clear– I was calmer and more relaxed because I was impaired.. like a junkie– I had slept after a fix and woke to another fix and I was feeling fine, medicated right into bliss.  I continued this crazy binge with Bojangles for lunch, Chubby’s Tacos for supper, and raspberry thumbprint cookies from Francesca’s for dessert!

Writing about this makes me see the addict in me so much clearer.  It is scary as hell and I can tell you that I was more than ready to go back on plan.  The price of re-boarding the TSFL bus next morning was that I would have to go through days of irritability and would not be back into mild ketosis and feeling really good again for anywhere from a few days to a week.  I also paid with the weight I would have lost during this week or so and I am sure there were negative effects on my blood sugar, triglycerides, and other body systems.  What I learned, though, was that even though I have been following this plan for over four months I still have work to do toward reframing my relationship with food.  Going back on plan was comforting on so many levels:  I felt in control again, I was now back to structured choices within a defined scope, and I was eating those foods that had taken me to this new place that I love so much– my cereal crunch and my hot cocoa and chicken noodle soup.

**************

And so now, here I am over a week after I went off plan [or as Daniel Cox puts it- “got off the bus”] and I am back into mild ketosis and feeling pretty darn good again.  The downside is that I weigh the same as I did before my planned cheat, so I literally lost over a week of progress.  This week was not has difficult as I anticipated, although I did have a meltdown about 5 or 6 days in where I over-reacted to something Bean did and got so upset I cried.  Daniel is so right when he talks in his videos about having to feel our feelings when we can’t eat them anymore  and, well, sometimes they just come spilling right out over the top.

So, in the do as I say and not as I do spirit, I will end with a video by Daniel Cox who is a fellow health coach.You should check out his YouTube channel if you are already on TSFL and he will motivate you in so many ways.  I loved this particular video because it helps put going off plan into perspective and I like that he ‘gets real’ with his viewer in sort of Dr. Phil style.  So, thanks, Daniel.  You are an amazing inspiration.  I don’t necessarily regret going off plan this time because of what I learned, but I want you to know that in part because of you…I plan to “stay on the bus.”

Be calm & keep moving forward..

I have been meaning to write this post for a number of days now.  Some of you may know that my weight loss journey has been so successful this go round that I decided to pay it forward and become a health coach for Take Shape for Life.   Anyone who has talked to me in the past 3 months knows that I am crazy excited over this program and how it has worked.  That might lead them to believe that it has been easy for me or glitch-free, but that is not the case.  The things I love about this program are that it is:

  • so simple to follow
  • that it is healthy and balanced
  • the weight loss is faster than on other plans I have been on [seriously, ever]
  • that it is structured enough that I don’t self sabotage by making poor food choices that hijack my blood sugar or fudge on points and flexpoints

I love how it makes me feel- more energized, more alert upon waking, empowered, and sometimes giddy with excitement.  But I have not been successful because I have more will power than someone else [I most certainly do not] or because I lose weight easily [I do not- I have hypothyroidism and it is harder for me to lose weight].  And while it has been the most successful weight loss journey I have had in my adult life [and the most swift], it has not been without moments of doubt or feelings of frustration. 

I have only been a coach for a month now. My new clients include my sister, my boyfriend, my sister’s friend, and several other personal friends. Some of them have complained at times that they are not losing fast enough, that they did not lose fast enough in the first week, that they did not lose fast enough in the second week, or other complaints about the pounds and the numbers of the scale.  My sister called one day and said, “I don’t know what is going on, I haven’t lost any weight for six days and I am getting discouraged.”  I said, “my goodness, you lost 22 lbs. in 25 days- that is almost a pound a day- your body needs to rest every now and again or you are going to look like a Shar Pei!”   She has a lot to lose and had large glycogen stores and lost quickly in the early days.   Some have been disappointed that they “only” lost 5 in the first week and someone else lost 9.  They are happy when they are losing a pound a day or 7-12 in a week, but then dejected when they have a week where they lose none or just a few.  They look at me, seemingly shrinking away in just 3 months and want that and want it now.  Well, these three months have been longer than you think, and I think it is important that I share some details of my weight loss. 

Month Pounds Lost Numbers I was seeing on the scale
October 17.5 190’s
November 5.5 180’s
December 7.5 170’s
January TBD 160’s

I have lost more than 35 pounds, but I started at the beginning of October.  If you look at the chart above, you will see that I have gone steadily downward since I began the plan and I have only gone off plan once- Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.   If I made a chart of what the numbers looked like each day, you would see how they go up, down, same, up, down, down, same, down- well, you get the idea.   I was discouraged during the times the scale stayed the same or went up, but I trusted that if I followed this plan, there was nowhere to go but down.  I am glad I did not give up. Weight loss is a funny funny thing, too.   You don’t lose in a linear fashion, you have ups and downs even when following the plan.  This is mostly because you are more than70% water and your degree of hydration at any given moment affects the numbers on the scale.  Weight loss is funny too, because you won’t always like how it looks.  When I first started losing quickly, I looked at my thighs at the end of the second month and thought, OMG, I can’t live with these hideous things!  They were sagging and looked like they had had bites taken out of them, like literally there were lumps and bulges in weird places and they were not smooth or shapely.  A month later, they are bagging less and in different places and the bulges and hollows have moved.  As your fat cells shrink, they do not do this in a perfect and orderly fashion, it is sort of haphazard and random.

What if I had quit after that first plateau?  I would have gone back to my old eating ways and most likely gained it all back and more.  It would be three months later and I would remain stuck and feeling sluggish and fat and like a failure. I would not have been able to open a package from Kohl’s and remove a size 10 petite pants and hold them up and go, “geez, I will never get into these tiny little things,” only to have them fit!!!  What a moment that was!  What if I had quit during December when every single day someone was eating wonderous foods around me- butter cookies, candy, cake, meatballs in sweet sauce, martini’s, you name it and the weight was not falling off of me- remember I only averaged a little over a pound and a half a week that month.  I would have missed that moment today, when I walked into REI and took a size L blouse off the sale rack because they run so small  there, only to have to go back and get a medium!  If I had given up, I would not have had my first glimpses at my collarbones 28 years!!

If you are not losing fast enough on this plan, go back and read your quick start guide and make sure you are not   messing up on types of leans or greens and their amounts.  Make sure you are not using too many condiments [half n half, parmesan cheese, artificial sweeteners, whipped cream, etc…].  Determine that you are drinking enough water because this is the hardest part for some people and losing weight robs you of water.  If you are sick, go off the plan and come back on later.  Get well first; the plan works best when you are healthy and well hydrated. 

Ultimately, know that if you follow the plan– you will be smaller next week than you are today, you will be much smaller next month, and the next, no matter what numbers are on the scale.  Try not to be a slave to the scale– they are just numbers and you are much more than numbers.  People ask me how much more I want to lose.  At just over 160, I would need to lose at least 35 more to be at an optimal BMI, but those are numbers; I will know when I get there.  Already, I feel younger, I move easier, I breathe easier, I snore less, I feel more energetic, I wake up easier in the morning, I pant less when walking up hills or stairs, I can run faster and for longer jaunts.  I am happier and I make new discoveries about myself every day.  I have learned I was eating way more food than my body needed for most of my life.  I have learned that I can live without bread and Hershey kisses, that I can make small, continuous choices that add up to big success.  I have learned that I can live without leaning on my drug of choice when in crisis or stressed- sugar; and that instead, I can lean on others, I can write, I can go for a walk, I can have a cup of tea, or I can just have a good cry. 

So, when you tell me that you are frustrated and the scale is not doing or saying what you want it to say;  I understand.  I have been there and will be there again.  But, I can tell you that only three months into this journey, every one of those moments have been worth it. 

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Martin Luther King Jr.