Life in the Middle, Episode 3

Life in the Middle, Episode 3

Thank you to everyone who watched our last episode of Life in the Middle.

In Episode 3, we are joined by a special guest who is our BIGGEST fan! We also give a Kombucha brewing demonstration that I think we can safely say is unlike anything you have ever seen. And we have an important viewer question about summer schedules for middle schoolers. We hope you will watch!

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Life in the Middle, Episode 2

Life in the Middle, Episode 2

Alayna and I are back for the second episode of “Life in the Middle.” This is our amazing show where we talk about Alayna’s life in middle school and my life in middle age! (Get it?!)

On our second episode, we ask an important viewer question that came up after our recent car accident! We also talk about Alayna’s track season and my less successful attempts at running. We recorded a bunch of other conversations about fashion, beet chips and summer, but they were all too boring and had to get cut.

Click to watch:

 

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My journey: A year later

My journey: A year later

This is Part Eight of my story. If you are just starting to read, please go back and start with:

Part One: A new view of food

Part Two: The start of my journey

Part Three: Malnourished in America

Part Four: Solving the gluten free puzzle

Part Five: The Isolation of autoimmune disease

Part Six: From Whole 30 to Paleo AIP

Part Seven: What do we eat?

Part Eight: A year later

 

**

A few months ago, I got into a battle of wills with a muffin.

I had been making a big batch of gluten free muffins each week for my kids to eat for breakfast as they ran out the door for school. The muffins contained gluten free grain, milk, eggs and chocolate chips. I don’t know if I have a sensitivity to any of these foods, but they are all ingredients that I don’t eat on the AIP diet.

I have gotten to the point that most of the time I’m fine around food I can’t have. It’s like I have a switch in my brain that I turn off, and I don’t even consider eating so many of the foods around me.

This time was different.

“You could eat that a year ago, and you were fine,” I told myself. “Come on! You would have considered this ‘healthy’ in the past.”

“No one will even know… you don’t have to tell your family… it smells so good.”

I couldn’t take it.

I ate the muffin.

I knew almost immediately that I had made a terrible choice. My digestive system started hurting. The symptoms grew worse during the next few days. I was sick for almost a week afterward. The worst part is that because the muffin contained so many ingredients that I have eliminated, I didn’t know which one had caused the problem. This is what NOT to do when reintroducing foods.

It was a good reminder to me how much of this journey with food is really in my head. All of the choices I make about what to eat are just that… choices. I don’t have to be on this extreme anti-inflammatory diet. I can veer off course “once in a while.” But I’m also the only person who has to deal with the consequences. I can choose to eat food that will make me feel my best. Or I can choose to eat what sounds good in the moment.

It’s up to me.

**

It’s been a year almost to the day since I crashed. I guess it’s fitting that on the anniversary of the start of this journey, I’m heading to the Celiac Center at the University of Chicago today to see a specialist.

Here’s what I know going into the appointment:

  • My celiac antibodies are still much higher than they should be for someone on a gluten free diet.
  • My recent endoscopy showed that I still have a lot of inflammation in my intestines and esophagus.
  • My acid reflux has gotten worse, and I now have an ulcer in my stomach.
  • The good news is that the villi that were wiped out in my intestines are growing back! This is super exciting to me because it means I can absorb nutrients from my food.

I guess I’m a bit of a mystery to my GI doctor. His analysis of these mixed findings is that he doesn’t know how to interpret them. He wants me to go to the Celiac Center to get advice from the specialists there.

**

 

Even though it’s weird to hear my doctor say he doesn’t know how to interpret my test results, I do know how far I’ve come in the last year. A year ago, both my husband and I collapsed on the exact same day. He was in the emergency room getting an ultrasound because he suddenly was experiencing double vision, an extreme headache and eventually reduced vision in one eye. We found out after a week of tests that he has a very rare condition that causes bleeding in his retina.

I was so focused on taking care of him, that I ignored my growing GI distress. I assumed that my diarrhea, exhaustion and fatigue that all started the same day were caused by the stress of his eye problem.

When I look back at all that has happened since then, I’m so thankful for how far we’ve come. My husband’s vision hasn’t returned completely, but his retina problem is under control. I have an amazing GI doctor and dietician who have helped me so much this year. My family has been a huge support to me. I know that tons of people are praying for me.

I get to eat an incredibly healthy diet. Before I got sick, I could go weeks without eating a fruit or vegetable. I basically lived on bread, pasta, cereal, oatmeal, yogurt and a list of other foods that I don’t even touch these days. It’s strange that during a time when I’ve been so “unhealthy,” I’m also the most healthy that I’ve ever been.

**

I’ve also learned so much about taking care of myself. I know now that it’s more than just food that I have to watch. There are so many other factors that will keep me operating at my best. Managing my stress level and getting enough sleep are key. I have found that when my stress is low and I’m getting plenty of sleep, I can be more flexible with my eating. When I’m eating perfectly, I can handle stress better or lack of sleep.

My spiritual life and being part of a community are essential. When I feel wiped out and just want to hide in bed, it’s better for me to get outside, do something creative or have a conversation with someone.

These are all simple choices, but they can seem so difficult in the moment.

**

How do I feel a year later? I haven’t felt great most of 2017, but the last 10 days I’ve been symptom free. I know that I can have a “flare” even when I’m doing my best to do everything right. So, I have learned to enjoy every good day.

When I wrote this blog post a few weeks ago, I will admit that I was feeling crushed. Now that a few weeks have gone by, I would describe myself as hopeful.

I have my moments when the desire to eat a muffin feels so intense that I convince myself I don’t have a choice. But I know now that the choices I make every day have a major impact on how I will feel.

**

I went for a walk early this morning as the sun was rising and thanked God for the past year. It’s definitely been a journey, but as the sun came up I felt the hope and promise of a new day.

**

Thanks so much for reading! Leave me a comment and let me know you stopped by!

 

 

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My journey: What do we eat?

My journey: What do we eat?

This is Part Seven of my story. If you are just starting to read, please go back and start with:

Part One: A new view of food

Part Two: The start of my journey

Part Three: Malnourished in America

Part Four: Solving the gluten free puzzle

Part Five: The Isolation of autoimmune disease

Part Six: From Whole 30 to Paleo AIP

Part Seven: What do we eat?

Part Eight: A year later

 

 

Since I transitioned to the Paleo AIP diet in February, the biggest questions I get from people are, “What do you eat?” and, “What do you feed your family?”

This has been a major transition during the past year. Planning meals for our family of six has always felt like a daunting task. Add in some major food restrictions and it seemed overwhelming at first.

Back when I went gluten free, I continued to cook normal Standard American Diet (SAD) meals for my family, and I would make something gluten free for myself. That was when I thought it would be too expensive to feed my whole family gluten free because I was still thinking about food in terms of a SAD diet. In other words, I would try to replicate a normal meal by substituting commercially packaged gluten free foods, which are expensive.

Our meals have changed dramatically since then. Now that I’m doing the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol diet, we all eat basically the same thing for dinner with a few exceptions. Keep in mind the list of eliminations: NO grains, sugar, dairy, soy, legumes, eggs, nuts, seeds, chocolate, processed food or nightshades, which include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and the spices made from those (paprika, chili powder and several varieties of pepper).

What I CAN eat is easier to remember: meat, produce and healthy fat.

**

 

I start each meal with protein. Most days, I cook dinner in my electric pressure cooker. I often cook a whole chicken, chicken drumsticks, pork loin, pork chops, or pot roast. I cook meat loaf or salmon in the oven. Depending on the protein, I throw in carrots, onions, celery or possibly cabbage or rutabaga. (These all cook well in the electric pressure cooker.) I’ve been learning how to change up the herbs and spices to create different variations. I often use sea salt, thyme, rosemary, garlic, sage, basil or oregano to give a different flavor.

Next, I start chopping veggies. I usually roast one or two pans of veggies in the oven with olive oil and sea salt. We love Brussel sprouts, carrots, cauliflower rice, broccoli, or cabbage steaks. Sometimes, I’ll do something more unusual like bok choy, okra, radishes or beets.

If we need some added starch, I’ll cook sweet potatoes or butternut squash in my second electric pressure cooker. Once in a while, I’ll do rice for my family. (I don’t eat grains.)

On days when I want to keep things simple, we’ll go back to some of our SAD favorites. I will make the kids gluten free pasta with meat sauce and parmesan cheese. I can’t have grains, tomatoes or dairy, so I’ll do spaghetti squash or “zoodles” with “nomato” sauce (which is made from beets, carrots and other veggies) and meat.

Tacos are another great gluten free meal. I can’t have the seasoning, taco shells (corn), cheese or sour cream, so I will eat unseasoned ground beef with lettuce, olives, guacamole and plantain chips.

Breakfast was the biggest adjustment. Without grains, dairy, nuts or eggs, it’s hard to find food that “feels” like a standard American breakfast. I usually eat leftovers from the night before. But I’ve also learned to make a warm porridge using butternut squash or spaghetti squash mixed with dates, shredded coconut and coconut milk.

I’ve also learned to make something like “pancakes” out of plantains or butternut squash.

 

My snacks are usually fruit, dried fruit or guacamole with plantain chips.

**

What does my family think?

A few days ago, we were eating one of my AIP meals together as a family, and I asked the kids if they missed our old way of eating.

“The thing is, Mom,” my 12-year-old daughter said, “after I eat your food, I just feel so… healthy!”

I was surprised to hear her answer, but it’s so true. The diet that I’m on is meant to reduce inflammation, and it honestly makes me feel great! In the past, just as I equated healthy with thin, I thought “diet” meant “hungry.” I actually eat a lot more than I ever ate before. I pile my plate full at each meal and never think about how much I eat.

My husband and oldest son both decided to jump on the gluten free/Paleo bandwagon on their own. My husband eats about 90 percent Paleo and our 16-year-old is completely gluten free. They have both experienced great health benefits from the change.

I’m not on this diet to lose weight. However, if you are wanting to lose weight, I highly recommend the regular Paleo eating plan (as opposed to Paleo AIP, which is far more restrictive). Paleo teaches you to eat protein, veggies and healthy fat. You are never hungry, and it makes you feel great!

**

Another question people ask me is how long do I plan to eat this way?

I’ve been in the elimination stage of the diet since February, and I’m planning to continue a strict AIP diet for six more months. Hopefully, by that time, my gut will have healed to a point that I can begin adding foods back in one by one. It will probably taken a year to do the reintroductions.

I know that a lot of people with autoimmune disease are never able to reintroduce many foods, so this is probably close to how I will eat for the rest of my life. However, I’m hopeful that I will be able to reintroduce a few things. Eggs and almond butter are at the top of my wish list!

**

What’s the hardest part about eating this way?

After four months, I’m really to the point that I prefer to eat this way. The biggest adjustment has been trying to navigate celebrations. It’s nearly impossible to eat in a restaurant, unless I want to eat a bowl full of plain lettuce (which I don’t)!

Life with celiac disease

On my birthday a few weeks ago, my husband was trying to think of something he could do to make my day special.

“I don’t know how to do this,” he said, lamenting that he couldn’t take me to a restaurant or bake me a birthday cake. “I’m just not sure how to celebrate.”

That was sad for me. We are learning to find other ways to spend time together as a family or come up with special treats that won’t take me too far off my eating plan. It’s been a new challenge, but I’ve learned that it’s worth it at this point to stick to the foods that make me feel my best.

I’m so thankful for my family and their great attitudes with all of the adjustments we’ve had to make. I am truly blessed.

 

**

Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave a comment below.

I’ll wrap this up tomorrow with a post on what I’ve learned since I crashed almost exactly a year ago.

 

Part One: A new view of food

Part Two: The start of my journey

Part Three: Malnourished in America

Part Four: Solving the gluten free puzzle

Part Five: The Isolation of autoimmune disease

Part Six: From Whole 30 to Paleo AIP

Part Seven: What do we eat?

Part Eight: A year later

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My journey: From Whole 30 to Paleo AIP

My journey: From Whole 30 to Paleo AIP

This is Part Six of my story. If you are just starting to read, please go back and start with:

Part One: A new view of food

Part Two: The start of my journey

Part Three: Malnourished in America

Part Four: Solving the gluten free puzzle

Part Five: The Isolation of autoimmune disease

Part Six: From Whole 30 to Paleo AIP

Part Seven: What do we eat?

Part Eight: A year later

 

**

I started on a gluten free diet June 23, and by Christmas time, I was in a better groove with this whole lifestyle.

I had learned to love things like flourless chocolate cake. I kept a loaf of gluten free bread in the freezer and would pull out a slice to toast to eat with my scrambled eggs. As long as I cooked my own food, I was good at keeping everything I ate away from the contamination of the food I made for my kids. I had even conquered my habit of licking my finger when it was covered in cake batter!

**

My weight had been steadily climbing since June, and I was ready to take control. I had more energy, so I also wanted to start exercising again.

I started researching different eating plans, and I was drawn to the idea of The Whole 30. I really wanted to curb my sugar addiction, and I also had heard that going grain free can be beneficial to people with autoimmune diseases.

You also have to understand that I actually find it more motivating to make extreme changes in my life, rather than small, subtle changes. To me, it was more exciting to radically change my diet with The Whole 30, rather than making only one change, like cutting out sugar.

**

I understood the concept of The Whole 30 was that it was an elimination diet. But I really didn’t think that applied to me. I knew I couldn’t have gluten, and I didn’t think I could have any other food sensitivities.

My goals with Whole 30 were to tame my sugar monster, cut out grains and lose five pounds.

Little did I know, Whole 30 had much more to teach me.

**

Getting started on Whole 30 was intense. The eating plan eliminates all sweeteners, all grains (including corn and rice), dairy, soy and legumes. Basically, it cuts processed foods and teaches you to replace them with whole, natural food. Because I had already stopped eating gluten, I had removed a lot of processed food from my diet. Still, for the first 10 days, I was in a state of withdrawal. I missed my Diet Root Beer, and I couldn’t wait to get back to drinking milk.

Around Day Nine, I was feeling so low energy, that I convinced myself that this wasn’t a good idea. I already struggle with getting proper nutrition, so cutting out entire food groups had to be a terrible plan! I turned a corner a few days later once I made it through the withdrawal phase.

By the end of the 30 days, I was feeling more in control of my food choices. I also had many “non-scale” victories. I had been exercising almost every day. I was sleeping great. I had energy. My brain was clear. Overall, I felt good.

I only had one problem.

My digestive system had returned to a state that I can only describe as celiac disease. It seemed to grow worse and worse each week that I did Whole 30.

**

I visited web sites. I read blogs. I looked for info on Pinterest. Everything told me that my digestive system should be functioning at an optimum level by the time I finished the Whole 30.

For a person with celiac disease, having a messed up gut is the one thing you dread the most. I couldn’t believe that my digestive system had deteriorated this much during the month.

I became obsessive about trying to figure out why. Maybe I was allergic to something. I had noticed that I would cough every time I ate nuts. Maybe they were the culprit. I had determined that I couldn’t handle any type of seeds, like Chia seeds or flax seeds that I had been eating since I eliminated grains. They sent me into a digestive tail spin. And I was starting to notice that potatoes seemed to make me feel sick almost immediately. I tried to re-introduce dairy into my diet, but took it back out after only a few days. It made me feel heavy and bloated.

At the beginning of February, I was in the re-introduction phase of Whole 30. I was supposed to reintroduce new foods into my diet every few days. Instead, I was going the opposite direction. I was trying to figure out what I could eliminate to get my digestion back on track.

**

In the meantime, my husband had grown very interested in what I was doing. He started telling me about a podcast he was listening to by a guy named Robb Wolf, who is kind of the spokesperson for the Paleo diet. I had been researching Paleo, which is almost the same as Whole 30, so I decided to start listening in. After a few episodes, Wolf started talking about the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol diet. This diet is even more rigorous than Paleo. It eliminates all inflammatory foods. So, in addition to the foods I had already eliminated, it also cuts out nuts, seeds, nightshades (including potatoes and tomatoes), eggs, coffee and chocolate.

Hang on.

Say what?

This diet was saying that all of the foods I had already identified as the ones that were causing me trouble are eliminated as part of a diet for people who have autoimmune disease. This was a lightning bolt moment for me.

**

I had already done Whole 30/Paleo for about 45 days at that point, and to be honest, I was ready for some chips and salsa.

During Whole 30, eggs, nuts and potatoes had become the staples of my diet. Now, I was learning that those were the exact things I needed to eliminate to try this Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). The foods that I had been eating almost every day for the last 30 days were the very foods that can cause problems for people with autoimmune disease.

Dang.

**

How on earth would I survive?

No gluten.

No grains.

No dairy.

No sugar.

No sweeteners.

No soy.

No legumes.

No seeds.

No nuts.

No eggs.

No coffee.

No chocolate.

No potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant or any of the spices made from those foods, including chili powder, red pepper and paprika.

What.

Is.

Even.

Left?

I dove into the Paleo AIP community, reading blogs, listening to podcasts and searching for recipes as I struggled with this idea of trying a new lifestyle that was going to restrict my diet even more. Six months ago, I thought gluten free was hard. Two months ago, I though Whole 30 was impossible. Now, I’m looking at eliminating the few foods that were still a joy to me.

I found two pieces of advice that urged me forward.

The first was this: “Don’t think about what you can’t eat. Think about what you can eat.”

The second: “Just plan one meal. Can you do this for one meal? If you can do it for one meal, can you do it for one day? If you can plan meals for one day, can you do it for a week?”

**

Unlike Whole 30, where I sat down and planned out a month’s worth of meals before I began, I literally took the one day approach with Paleo AIP. 

I planned one meal.

And then the next.

And then another meal after that.

I started listening obsessively to podcasts about Paleo and AIP. The ones I listened to most were Phoenix Helix and the Autoimmune Wellness Podcast. On Phoenix Helix, the podcaster often interviews people with different autoimmune disorders. A few times, she has interviewed someone with celiac disease. The women would describe what their lives were like before they were diagnosed. Then, they would talk about how healthy they are now on this diet.

I wasn’t crazy.

I wasn’t alone.

This isn’t in my head.

I would listen and cry.

There are other women in this world who are experiencing what I am going through. They have felt my pain. I have felt so isolated and tried so hard not to burden people with the changes in my life. And now, for the first time, I am hearing stories of other people who have walked the same road.

I didn’t know if this diet would work for me. But I knew it was worth a try.

 

**

Thanks so much for reading this far! Tomorrow, I’m going to write about the question I get asked most: “What do you eat?!” I’ll talk about how I cook for myself and my family on such a restrictive diet!

If you’ve made it this far, I would love to hear from you! Leave me a comment below!

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