“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ~ M. Scott Peck
I have had a lot of questions about how my new found eating plan has been going so I figured I would blog about it rather than updating my Facebook status several times more a day than I already do. I know, I am working on that. What can I say? It's winter, I have been housebound way more than usual, and even the dog gets sick of listening to me after a while!
So I have been going strong since the day after Christmas with eating healthier and getting back on my green smoothies. I wrote about my intention to further expand this in my previous blog entries: Patient, Heal Thyself and Nutritional Healing. Last week I started the whole gluten-free, dairy-free, semi vegetarian, no soda, minimally processed foods, reduced sugar business. And yes, I am pretty much making it up as I go along since this is not a specific "diet" plan so to speak. Rather, it is a hodgepodge of what I currently think to be in my best interest health wise.
I will be frank. It has been difficult, very difficult. But not more difficult than my Sjogren's Syndrome related health issues over the past few months and especially over the past two weeks. I am glad that I started to detox from all the Christmas indulgences the day after the holiday. It gave my body a chance to adjust to being off caffeine (which I was off of until the holidays) and processed sugar. I truly believe that there are certain foods that I am addicted to and the big ones are sugar and fast food. I also have found it amazing that once I have gone through that detoxification process, I crave the bad stuff so much less. Past experience has taught me that once I have more than a treat or two in a week, all bets are off because my body seems to then want it more and more.
One of the biggest challenges has been that I am doing this all at a time when I am taking a dose of steroids (prednisone) that I have never had to take at this dose (50mg a day) for this long a duration. Prednisone is notorious for causing excessive hunger, weight gain, cravings and menstrual difficulties which can in turn produce hormonal changes that affect all of the previously stated issues! But I am resolved to not let that be a barrier for me. In addition, if my nutrition changes help my autoimmune disorder, then hopefully the prednisone will someday soon be a thing of the past. I know I need to give the nutritional plan at least three or four months before I can make a decision about whether it is working for me or not.
Another huge challenge for me has been figuring out the whole gluten-free/dairy-free situation. It is not that difficult to figure out one or the other but the two combined gives me a run for my money. Gluten and the hidden protein of dairy, called casein, are in an unbelievable amount of foods and personal care products.Think about anything processed: condiments, sauces, bread, pasta, beer, drinks, salad dressings, baked goods, cold cuts, marinated meats, hot chocolate; foods in restaurants; I could go on and on! I am not sure how diligent I need to be with the gluten in the personal care products such as lotion, makeup, shampoo, etc. but I am going to err on the side of caution. My thinking is that if I am putting myself through all this, get it right the first time. As luck would have it, a lot of the personal care products I use because of my Sjogren's are gluten-free anyways...thank god!
I have found many ways to make this whole process easier. The internet has been an invaluable tool as has my social network of friends and acquaintances who have trail blazed before me. I love the fact that I can type in "is Heinz ketchup gluten-free?" and get an immediate response; most of the time! Certain stores like Trader Joe's, which I have always loved anyways, do a huge part with training their employees in helping you out. I found out today that they even have a bulletin board with different allergy food lists so that you can take the list around the store in order to make life easier.
I have also learned two valuable things; I must cook at home most of the time in order to accomplish this great nutritional feat and I must speak up for myself without worrying what other people are going to think. At home I have complete control over what is in my kitchen and more importantly, what goes in my mouth. When out in public, especially at restaurants, I have to ask as many questions as I need to and be proactive about bringing my own food as needed. I have been blessed with a very supportive fiancee whom although I do not expect to do this exact plan with me, is more than willing to eat whatever I make. I have successfully divided up our cabinet in sections for foods that are allowable for me and then not allowable in order to make the process easier for both of us. As a matter of fact, as I am writing this, he is giving me a break from cooking and whipping up a pot of gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian chili for tomorrow and the next couple of days.
I so love this man.
I know restaurants and socializing will end up being my biggest struggle with this whole way of life but I think it will get easier with time. I don't want to avoid social situations just because I don't think I can participate. I had my first restaurant meal at Pizzeria Unos the other day with my mom after a very long day. We were both famished after my doctor's appointment and I had left my car in their parking lot so she could drive the rest of the way to Hartford. I had done a little online restaurant research and thought I might be able to get a decent, safe meal there. I was not disappointed. They had a separate gluten-free menu and the waitress was good at helping me figure out how to avoid the dairy. It was quite an enjoyable meal with my mom!
As I go through the next month or two of meeting with doctors and undergoing medical tests to try and sort some new things out in regards to the Sjogren's Syndrome, I know that I am doing everything in my power to hopefully help heal myself. I am taking one day at a time, one hour at a time even. I am discovering a host of new foods that not only did I not know existed, but that I actually enjoy. It is exciting doing such a positive change for myself.
It makes me feel empowered.
It gives me some peace.
Photo Courtesy of Google Images