Diet Shift

Week 7(or 8): Good-bye Gluten

I took an impromptu break from the diet shifts and blogging last week.

I think it was a combination of being really busy, finishing up my chest cold, and not ready to drop gluten. It may have been an issue with my MS fatigue, though I hate admitting to that considering all the changes I’ve been making. I’ve been feeling really good overall and to have a bad couple of days is discouraging.

I think it’s a good example that nothing I do is going to be 100% in coping with my MS. It’s still there, I still have it, and I still have to deal with it regardless of all the lifestyle changes and medication.

That reality is really hard to handle.

But the key is to not get discouraged and keep moving forward. Having setbacks here and there is normal, it’s how I deal with them that really matters.

I struggled with the concept of dropping gluten from my diet last week because sometimes you want a pizza (vegan) with that crispy, glutinous crust. So I went ahead and had that vegan pizza and enjoyed it.

So this week I am rededicating my lifestyle changes and dropping gluten.

I think it’s going to be a “temporary” drop because it’s going to be near impossible to adhere to my diet changes over the Thanksgiving holiday (especially the no gluten part). We’re going to visit Ash’s family and I am not going to expect them to provide for my dietary needs.

I will try to take my diet into account with my decisions, but I am not going to force the issue of “I can’t eat this, because…” I think the only two food groups I will be consistent in avoiding is sugar and dairy. But not push the issue with anything else because I hate being an imposition.

Once we get back I will hop back to it, and possibly consider doing an ayurvedic detox because the final drop is essentially removing “dirty” foods from my diet and switching to clean eating.

For Wednesday, I plan to examine some theories I have read about gluten and autoimmune diseases and the nature of gluten on the body.

Here’s to getting back to it!

 

 

 

Diet Shift

Week 6: Vegan at Last

I am finally dropping all other meats.

I am officially vegan.

I prefer calling it veganism not just because it’s more succinct, but also because there is a level of adopting a more non-harm based lifestyle as an additional approach to my diet shift. If I am more compassionate in my food decisions, I might be more compassionate to myself which will help me through my journey. It’s about making a mindset shift as much as it’s for my health.

The additional health goals is to my lower cholesterol and hopefully gain some more energy on a totally plant-based diet. Since I’ve already reviewed all this stuff before in my other posts, I won’t rehash old information.

The Plan for the Week

  • Really work on taking my multivitamins. I have a regimen to help supplement my diet in case I have an off day, but vitamins are always difficult for me to remember to take.
  • Make protein smoothies that I enjoy as a means to boost my daily protein intake. I have found that after longer runs I crave something high in protein. It will be a good means to replenish what my body needs.
  • Work on compiling snacks to keep in my purse or in Jai’s diaper bag for myself in case I get caught someplace where there are no food options. But also making sure I leave the house feeling full if I am not going someplace where I know they will have something I can eat.

The Social “What if’s”?

  • Eating in a restaurant: Find vegan options and sticking with them. If there aren’t any, find a vegetarian that requires minimal adjustments.
  • No food options in a restaurant or at a friend’s house: Use snack packs I’ve already stashed in my purse or in Jai’s diaper bag as a means to tide me over.
  • “Why aren’t you eating that?”: I am trying to remove inflammatory foods from my diet as a means to help make me feel better.

I have some exciting updates on Wednesday. I had my annual appointment with my neurologist and my half-marathon results.

Diet Shift

Week 5: Dear Dairy…

Dairy and I have always had a love/hate relationship.

I had issues with it as a baby and have always had mild issues with it as an adult such as mucus, gas, and feeling bloated. Nothing that affected my quality of life, but just a mild annoyance every so often.

My reactions to dairy tells me that I am most likely sensitive to it, but like with sugar, when it’s in your system it’s hard to notice.

Dairy has always been that difficult mountain to cross whenever I went vegan. The thought of going without cheese never appealed to me and vegan alternatives never tasted as good as slightly burnt cheese on a grilled sandwich.

I knew that there was a chance Jai would have issues with dairy. When I was a baby, I had a hard time digesting breastmilk and at the time, mothers were told to consume a bunch of milk when breastfeeding for the baby’s health. It never crossed my pediatrician’s mind that perhaps my mom should drop dairy from her diet to help me feel better. She switched to formula and that was that.

But when more information came out over the last few decades that dairy causes issues, particularly through breast milk, we put two-and-two together. So when it came time to breastfeed Jai, I watched my dairy intake.

I did notice that when I had a dairy-heavy meal, Jai was more uncomfortable that evening. When we started putting him on solids, if he had something that had a lot of dairy, he wouldn’t stay asleep due to discomfort.

That informed me that while correlation does not mean causation, it was something to pay attention to when deciding what to feed him. It’s easier to supplement his calcium needs with fortified foods outside of breastmilk. I am not against him having dairy once in awhile, nor am I against him drinking milk. But with all possible sensitivities, we will be doing it with care because I don’t want him to have unnecessary discomfort.

Ash reminded me recently that he had stomach issues growing up, issues with really painful gas. He wasn’t able to point to anything in particular, but he suspected that it was food related. Because there’s a possible genetic factor at play for Jai, we’re going to keep a really close eye on his reactions to certain foods.

I am dropping dairy not just for personal comfort, but because this is the last of the foods I am dropping for my cholesterol. I think there were some secondary benefits for my MS when I dropped dairy because dairy is inflammatory. I will be doing more research regarding that this week.

The Plan for the Week

  • I tend to reach for snacks that have dairy when I want to mindlessly eat. Having some carrots and hummus will be a good alternative.
  • Ash bought me N’ice Cream as a means to treat myself after my half-marathon on Sunday. I bought myself a nicer blender with some smoothie books, so when I am craving something with dairy, I will grab some “ice cream” or make a smoothie as a means to help with that craving. I made a banana ice cream the other day and it’s creamy enough to satisfy that specific craving.
  • I have found that sprinkling nutritional yeast over snacks helps a lot with cheese flavor. It’s not perfect, but it reminds me of parmesan. I can air pop some popcorn and throw the nutritional yeast on top if I want to taste something dairy-like.

The Social “What if’s”?

  • Eating in a restaurant: I am not going to stress over perfection, but opt for dishes that don’t have dairy or ask for the dairy removed. With salads, chose an oil and vinegar dressing. Still gotta avoid that fried stuff…
  • I am given something with dairy to eat/try: Defer if I can and if not, save it for later to give to Ash to try.
  • “Why aren’t you eating that?”: Trying to see if I feel better by going without dairy for a period of time. I have also noticed Jai getting more gassy when I’ve had dairy and I want to see if this will alleviate that symptom.
  • “Won’t you miss ice cream/cheese/eggs?”: Yes. I definitely will miss all those things, but current alternatives are better than ever and after a while you forget the difference.

For Wednesday, I will be examining how dairy can affect the body and see if what I have is a sensitivity or an allergy. Obviously, getting tested is the best way to confirm this, but sometimes that’s just not feasible for insurance. I think it will be helpful to see what dairy does to the body and see if that affects my MS as well.

 

Diet Shift

Week 4: All the Fried Things

I love french fries, fried mozzarella bites, deep-fried candy bars, potato chips, wings, etc. I particularly love these foods when my body is telling me to prepare for winter: fall fair season is my foodie season. I go into biological preservation mode when I am sick or not feeling well emotionally. Chicken soup? No thanks, pass me the deep-fried chicken wings with lemon-pepper coating.

Living in the Southeastern United States does not help matters. In New England, it was easy to find fried foods, but you had to know where to look and actively go to the location to consume golden, fried goodness. Down here, practically every restaurant offers some form of fried goodness on their menu. One favorite spot offers fried kale and it’s delicious.

Just like last week, this is less about the MS and more to do with my overall health. It isn’t a secret that fried foods are really bad for you. Because I have cholesterol issues, continually consuming fried foods is not in my best interest. I am also looking at it as a means to help moderate and boost my mental/emotional well-being. Eliminating foods fried in hydrogenated oils will hopefully help bolster my mood and work as a natural antidepressant. It won’t replace antidepressants, but help modify my mood slightly.

This food elimination will double as model of better eating habits for Jai. When eating out, Ash and I have a bad habit of ordering something with fries and offering Jai everything except the fries while we eat them in front of him. He’s at that stage where if food goes into Mommy’s mouth, then he needs to try/eat it too.

It’s not fair to be refusing to feed him something from my plate while I am munching happily away on those items. So eliminating the option altogether and showing him that a meal can be well-rounded while eating out is the plan. I am not going to deprive him of eating fries or fried items for his entire childhood, but I would rather it be for a special occasion and not the norm.

I realized that I am getting deeper and deeper into this diet shift and I think I need to add in “plan” and “prep” sections for how I plan to handle the week and certain scenarios that come up in my social life. These will be new additions of the rest of my Monday “Diet Shift” posts.

The Plan for the Week

  • I am eliminating deep-fried foods, not foods pan fried in olive oil. If I am going to make something pan-fried, it will be with an eye on the amount of oil used and the type of oil. Pan fried, while not massively healthier than deep-fried, has its place in cooking certain dishes that we love at home and is limited to once or twice a month in our household.
  • I have an emotional attachment to fried-foods. If something good or bad happens, my first instinct is to celebrate or drown myself with fried foods. As emotional wins and losses happen throughout the week, I am going to pay attention to the deeper need driving me towards eating fried foods and see what I need to do to make internal changes.
  • When a strong craving for fries (my main go-to for fried snacks) happens, I will look for an alternative. Baking some sweet potatoes, grabbing some pretzels, or carrot sticks while reflecting on the craving itself.
  • Spend some time researching how bad fried foods are for my overall health and the health benefits of lowering my fried-food intak . I think by doing both of these it will help strengthen my resolve to not give in to cravings and temptation. I will include some research on how fried foods affect the little one’s diet and how I can help him by not making it a staple.
  • Research alternatives to my favorite foods that I can also offer Jai, guilt-free.

The Social “What if’s”?

  • Eating at a fast food location where most everything is fried: Side salads with grilled chicken. Fruit slices and bottles of water.
  • Eating out and people order a shared dish that has items I am not eating: Order an additional dish that I can also share with others. Ask for a side fruit salad, bread, and drink extra water.
  • Friend offers me to try their food: Politely decline, but offer to share some of mine in return.
  • “Why aren’t you eating that?”: I am taking a slight break in some of my previous eating habits to help my body recover OR I am training for a half-marathon and I am trying to help my performance and recovery.

Wednesday will see a return of the “Information Huddle” and a deeper examination of the importance of eliminating or moderating fried-food intake. From the cursory research I’ve done so far, I suspect I will see an overlap with my research regarding microbiomes.

Diet Shift

Week 3: The Meat and Potatoes

The decision to remove red meat (and dairy when we get to that week) comes from a slightly different place than my other food adjustments. Most of my food adjustments revolve around how it might positively impact my MS, but this has a different health origins. I have a family history of high cholesterol, specifically the bad kind. Whenever I get my cholesterol tested and it comes back high, this is the conversation I have  with the doctor:

Dr: You should go on medication to lower your cholesterol.
Me: I don’t want to.
Dr: Well, you should. You’ve an increased chance of getting heart disease.
Me: What about diet?
Dr: Diet will only go so far, medicine would ensure it drops to acceptable levels
Me: …
Dr: …
Me: I’ll think about it.

Back when Ash and I were beginning the pre-conception process, I went and saw a nutritionist at my General Practitioner’s office to see what I could do to maintain a healthy diet throughout the pregnancy.

Sidebar: I had seen this nutritionist before and disliked her. I got the suspicion that she had an eating disorder and she had been giving me bad advice before regarding food and healthy eating habits. I have always been a firm believer of the “calories in; calories out” mentality, healthy choices, and portion control – so I had an expectation of that sort of advice when I went in the first time. Instead of all of that – she was advocating extreme calorie deficits, restrictive dieting with no alternatives, and extreme exercise regimens. I didn’t go back for my second session. So when I got sent back…

The nutritionist went through my numbers and started her spiel of extreme restriction and I stopped her right there:

Me: I am thinking about being a vegan when I get pregnant and wanted tips on how to make sure I get all the nutritional needs for the baby and me.
RDN: You have really high cholesterol and we need to get that under control…
Me: Yes, I know. But I am not here for that. I want to know what my meal plan needs to be if I do veganism during my pregnancy.
RDN: You should be concerned! It’s so high. Here’s some foods you should consider to lower your cholesterol…
Me: Look. My cholesterol isn’t what’s going to kill me. My MS is going to kill me first, so I really don’t care about cholesterol. Do you or do you not have any advice for a possible vegan diet when I get pregnant?
RDN: **sputters** Well, you’ll need some beans for protein […15 minute discussion of protein sources and portion sizes..] and because your cholesterol is so high your should really avoid coconut fats…
Me: [inward eye roll] Okay.

She wanted to me come back again for another session. Needless to say I did not return because I was really annoyed that she was so inflexible and completely short-sighted to what I was saying. Anyone who is familiar with the vegan diet knows that veganism is one of the best diets to limit your “bad” cholesterol intakes (provided you aren’t consuming hydrogenated fats ALL the time).

I had gone in there with the intention of eating in such a way that would have the side benefit of lowering my cholesterol and she couldn’t even see that. To say it was infuriating is putting it mildly.

Full-Disclosure: I wasn’t able to be vegan during my pregnancy, let alone vegetarian. I followed what my body wanted and that was chicken (when I could eat meat without feeling sick) and fruit.

I am not entirely against medication, but if I can limit the amount of medicine I put into my body to the absolutely necessary kind (i.e. MS), and moderate my health via diet and exercise – I think it’s a healthier way to manage my life. If, after putting in the necessary work, that STILL doesn’t solve my numbers problem, then I will reconsider medication.

I am not going to espouse the moral and ethical benefits to shifting vegetarian/vegan because there are thousands of other blogs and websites that do that. With the exception of this blog, I am a firm believer of keeping certain life choices to myself. One of my favorite jokes about vegans goes like this:

“You’ve arrived at a party, how do you tell which person is a vegan? You don’t. They’ll let you know within five minutes.”

If I do my job right – you won’t even notice that I am not consuming meat/dairy by the end of this experiment. Thus this week I am dropping beef and pork and probably won’t discuss the meat topic until “check-in” and when I drop the rest of the meat food groups.

I am thinking this week should be relatively easy since I don’t eat a ton of red meat on my own. I usually consume the red meat whenever Ash wants it, though to be fair, that’s an awful lot. He’s my resident carnivore. I think I might struggle more with chicken and fish because sashimi is one of my all-time favorite dishes. We’ll see how the week goes by Friday.

 

 

Diet Shift

Week 2: Sweet Tastes

Sugar. My friend. My comfort. What I turned to when I am down; in need of an energy boost; or just because I need the taste of something sweet. Needless to say, this week was going to be the hardest for me to give up.

Sugarcane specifically. There is a distinction between sweetening agents and sugarcane is my favorite. If given a choice between American Coca-Cola and Mexican Coca-Cola, I take the Mexican Coke every single time. High-Fructose Corn Syrup is nice and all, but nothing beats the taste of true sugar.

Sugar in my coffee, sugar in my tea, sugar in my tomato sauce for spaghetti, sugar, sugar, sugar.

You get the point. I add a lot of sugar to the stuff I consume.

I am specifying sugarcane because that seems to be one of the worst offenders to the Western diet. I will allow myself to consume fruits, date syrup, maple syrup, and coconut sugar as added sweeteners to help manage any cravings. But if an item states “sugar” or a version of sugar (HFCS for example) without being more specific in the ingredient list I move on to another item, or make it myself with some substitute.

What I am hoping my long-term outcomes will be when I eliminate sugar this week:

  • Removing “bad” food for my gut flora
  • Boosting my energy
  • Boosting my overall mood
  • Providing a good example for Jai by not going to sugary treats whenever I want (and making healthy alternative choices)
  • Lose weight (this will be a long-term benefit – I don’t anticipate weight dropping immediately)
  • More conscious of what I put into my body

Interestingly, I have both dreaded this week’s diet drop and excited for it. I hate the idea of dropping sugar, but spent the weekend in anticipation of dropping sugar and didn’t binge (especially when I had several opportunities to do so) on it.

I think I am ready to make this transition. Having a relatively positive attitude will help make this particular diet shift easier. Still not looking forward to it.

Diet Shift

Week 1: No More W(h)ining

While I don’t drink a lot of alcohol, I do appreciate having a cocktail when I eat out or have a dram of Scotch on a lazy Sunday afternoon when I feel like it. I have been on droughts before: I just went through one when I was pregnant with Jai. It wasn’t a big deal and so by making this my first removal it is a bit like cheating because it’s so easy.

I don’t plan to make this a permanent removal like some of the other foods. Alcohol is actually considered reasonable to consume when on an anti-inflammatory diet provided you consume in moderation and it doesn’t conflict with medication. The praises of the occasional glass of red wine on your health are published almost on the daily.

But we need to call a spade a spade: technically what I am doing is considered a detox or a cleanse. Continue reading “Week 1: No More W(h)ining”