Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Diet and Exercise Update

"Take care of your body with steadfast fidelity. The soul must see through these eyes alone, and if they are dim, the whole world is clouded." ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I realized this week that it has been six months since I made the drastic change to eliminate all gluten and dairy from my diet. Wow, six months! I think that is the longest I have ever stuck with a change in my eating habits. I can honestly now say that it is much easier than it was when I started back in January.

People ask me from time to time if I think that eliminating gluten and dairy from my diet has helped my autoimmune symptoms. It has not eliminated the symptoms but at this point, I feel that it has helped. On a few occasions I have intentionally eaten something with gluten or dairy in it and I have noticed a change for the worse either in my level of joint pain and/or in my asthma symptoms. In addition to that, I never have any gastrointestinal issues at all anymore and my menstrual cycle is much more tolerable.

I have become frustrated with this eating plan at times, most notably when I came off of my last round of steroids and my joint pain immediately came back. I sat and wondered why the heck I was making my life more challenging by eliminating gluten and dairy when I was still having joint pain. The point that I was missing at the time though was that the joint pain was not as severe.

One of the biggest advantages that I have found with living a gluten and dairy-free lifestyle is the changes it has forced me to make in my eating habits. Changes that have positively affected my health, weight, and overall well being. For example, I have to plan out and think about what I am going to eat. Gone are the days of impulsively shoving something in my mouth because I am either hungry or because I crave a particular food. The options available to me at fast food joints and restaurants are much fewer and therefore I am spending much more time at home cooking meals from scratch which means healthier meals.

Many people say that eating gluten or dairy-free, as well as organic, is much more expensive but I would have to disagree. Yes, my food bill is more each week but it does not compare to the amount of money I save by not swinging by Subway several times a week or eating dinner out more than once every other week. I have also found that unless it is a homemade food, gluten-free products such as bread, muffins, etc. tend to be much more unhealthy and filled with more preservatives than non-gluten products. This has resulted in eating these items once in a great while and instead I choose whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, and whole grains.

The second big change I made in my diet was making the decision to start the Weight Watchers program. This has literally been a godsend for me. I have found the program to be much more "whole foods" friendly than it used to be and I enjoy the fact that in addition to going to weekly meetings, I can also use their online program which enables me to work the program from my laptop or cell phone. I have found a meeting I really enjoy on Tuesday afternoons. Adding a Weight Watchers program to my gluten and dairy-free lifestyle has been a challenge but well worth it. Since my birthday, which was May 3rd, I have lost eighteen pounds. If you add that to the weight I have gradually lost over the past three years, my body is now fifty-five pounds lighter. Oh yeah.

I continue to go to the gym anywhere from four to six days a week. Exercising has become a more difficult task since coming off prednisone and sometimes I just want to say "the hell with it" and quit. But I don't. I am committed to changing my life and I cannot let joint pain, fatigue, and migraines get in the way of that. I have however changed some of my routine around and have cut back on the length of time I am exercising until I can get my symptoms more under control. I have started taking Pilates classes which was a big step for me and I am in love with it. Right now my exercise regime consists of Pilates, water aerobics, lap swimming, the cross trainer, and rowing. My goal is to be able to increase the time of my workouts and try some other different classes once my joint pain has improved.

I love to exercise. Shocking but true. For most of my life it has been a chore and something I dreaded doing; when I did do it. It is different now though. It is a necessity for me mentally as well as physically. I have worked hard to find activities that are not only safe for my joints but also fun. Despite the physical challenges that I still have, every week I find that my body is getting stronger. Every time I swim a lap in the pool of sit on the mat in a Pilates class, I feel like I have more control over the body that I have spent so much time cursing.

My hope is that as I continue to lose weight and build a stronger body that more of my autoimmune symptoms will lessen or even disappear. If not, I figure the worst that can happen is that my new lifestyle will help prevent future issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Not to mention how much better I will feel about myself.

Works for me.

Photo Courtesy of Google Images


  1. It's great that you've found a plan that works for you and that you're seeing positive results.

  2. What a positive post. Like you, being gluten and dairy free has not miraculously cured my disease, but I can never imagine going back to eating the way I did eight years ago. Eating this way has improved my life in so many ways! And exercise, we have to do in my opinion. It clears the mind and gets those joints moving.

    1. Agreed. I had to miss exercising for 5 or 6 days about 2 wks. ago and it was very tough on me mentally. Never thought I would say that!

  3. I've have been thinking about going gluten-free for a while. It would be so hard for me to do, because I'm (unfortunately) a big fan of processed foods. Kudos to you for sticking with it though. I hope that I can work up the strength to do it -- I'm sure it would ease my autoimmune symptoms. And your right, even if it doesn't - it's just plan good for you. Mind over matter. Mind over matter.

    Do you have any advice to switching to a gluten-free diet? Did you ease into it or just go for it?

    1. Hi Denise,

      I did not ease into it because I was so sick at the time, I was desperate for anything to work. That being said, although I was trying to be completely gluten-free (gf), I'm sure I was not at first because it took me some time to learn all the food where gluten hides. It is so much more involved than just breads, pastas, etc.

      The one piece of advice though that I think would be helpful is if you want to go gf, start by doing a month or so of reducing or even eliminating processed foods. Like you said, that is the hard part. If you try and make the majority of your diet lean meats, fish, whole grains (quinoa, rice, etc.), beans, nuts, fruits, and veggies then eliminating gluten won't be such a big loss when you do it.

      My other piece of advice is get yourself a couple of good cookbooks. Let me know if you need some suggestions. It is possible to eat out being gf but I have found it is a lot easier, and a lot cheaper, to not eat out as often and to save eating out as a treat and to reserve it for a special time out with friends.

      If you decide to go for it, let me know how you make out!

    2. Thanks for the great advice, Christine! I will let you know how it goes!