Today I’m going to tell you about the “diet” that changed my life.
Before I started my “diet” I was incredibly ill. I have an autoimmune condition which basically results in my immune system going nuts and having allergic reactions to a number of foods. I also suffered extreme gastrointestinal pain, frequent bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea, constant fevers, bone and joint pain, headaches and excessive fatigue. Even after I was discharged from hospital I felt like crap. It was like having the flu every day of my life. And that was a distinct improvement. I was on SEVENTEEN medications. My white blood count was terrible. My mental health was affected, because feeling like absolute crap every day of your life and being unable to function does that to you.
There was no relief. Nothing I did helped. I was popping pain killers like tic tacs. My immunologist was starting to talk about putting me back on steroids (which, last time made me rampantly psychotic), or – worse – hardcore immunosuppresants that are traditionally used for cancer patients, and would leave me even more vulnerable to illness and infection than I already was. Something had to change.
So I started a diet.
I say “diet” because it isn’t really a “diet”. To me, “dieting” conjures images of cabbage soup, unrelenting hunger, and feeling deeply miserable. I’ve been on diets before. This wasn’t like that.
My aim wasn’t to lose weight. Don’t’ get me wrong – the weight I have lost in the last few months has been a welcome side effect. But I made the change to better my health, and to better my health alone.
I researched a number of different “diets’; Paleo, LCHF, GAPS, Raw, all that kind of stuff. But there were restrictions, and aspects of the diets that I didn’t like. So I made my own rules.
I used my common sense. I figured that if it grows on trees, you can dig it out of the ground, or comes from an animal it’s probably good for you. If it comes in brightly coloured packaging and the second ingredient is “sugar”, probably not so much. So, after many hours of research on nutrition, and spending an inordinate amount of time in the supermarket, no doubt pissing everyone off, while I examined ingredient lists, I completely changed my way of eating.
Here’s what I did.
– Obviously I started by cutting out all foods I knew I had allergic reactions/ intolerances to. I’d have to be pretty stupid not to.
– I decided that consuming excessive refined sugar was not going to help my physical or mental health. There are many links between sugar and physical and mental illness. So I reduced it. I didn’t “quit” sugar – as so many people proclaim, because I eat various forms of unrefined sugar – for example the fructose in fruit (personally I feel that the fibre content and nutritional value of fruit far out weighs the supposed badassness of fructose). But I swapped cane sugar for coconut palm/stevia/honey in cooking. I stopped eating so much crap. I drunk water instead of juice. But on the other hand I didn’t deprive myself either. If I go out for dinner and there is the possibility of ice cream afterwards. You bet, I’m ordering it. And I feel no guilt. This is a long term project, and I don’t believe it is sustainable without the odd treat. To me, the occasional special treat is very different to the mindless eating of junk that I was doing regularly.
– I stopped buying processed food and made it myself. When I began looking closely at supermarket products, I was absolutely horrified at how much sugar/additives/preservatives are added to foods. Most things I make nowadays are from scratch – stocks, dressings, yogurt, muesli bars, sauces etc. But again, if I’m busy and don’t have the time to culture a yogurt I buy some, I just make sure it is good quality. The aim is to improve my health, not make it worse through stress.
– I cut down on some forms of dairy ( I can tolerate cheese and yogurt better than milk). I’ve always been sensitive to dairy, so this was nothing new. I started making my own nut rice milks to cut down on the expense.
– I don’t buy “low fat”, or “diet” anything. Low fat foods are higher in sugar, and diet foods/drinks are high in chemicals. Despite the hype, your body does need (good) fat to survive. I’m full fat all the way
– I very rarely, if ever, eat fast food/convenience food. This is especially easy for me as I am actually allergic/intolerant of most fast foods.
– I eat “real” fresh looking foods. Fresh fruit and vegetables. Grains I can tolerate – such as quinoa. Good quality cuts of meat.
– I use Olive Oil and Coconut Oil for cooking instead of vegetable oil.
– I give myself treats. But I make them myself, and I try to make them as healthy as possible. For example .. raw desserts. Some may say that they are are calorific, or contain a lot of oils. I say they are made from whole foods, contain no refined sugar or preservatives. They fill you up and satisfy your sweet craving. All in moderation, obviously, but if you are going to have something sweet – it’s probably better than eating your weight in Reeces Pieces.
– I don’t let myself go hungry. Unlike the starvation diets of my former years, if I am hungry I eat. I have three meals and several snacks a day, and I never feel deprived.
– I cut out caffeine, and alcohol (apart from on special occasions).
So I did all this – and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I was hoping to improve my fatigue. I certainly didn’t expect the major impact that simply eating good quality food has had on my health.
– I no longer have gut pain. Any. At all. (Well, unless I eat something on my allergy list). This is HUGE for me, as I have lived with chronic pain for a long time.
– I can keep my food down…and up. Hells to the yeah!
– I have come off FIFTEEN of my medications. And I am currently cutting out another.
– I no longer have fevers, joint or bone pain. I don’t catch every cold that goes around.
– My headaches have disappeared.
– A plantar wart I had on my foot completely disappeared. I had had this wart for 10 years and tried every treatment you can imagine. It was like a goddamn miracle.
– My hair is lovely and shiny and I’ve stopped bruising so easily
– I have energy. I wake up early, sleep well, and never feel tired during the day.
– My concentration is now awesome.
– All my food cravings have gone.
-I am no longer having panic attacks. I don’t feel remotely depressed. I have no psychosis. I’m generally cheerful and look forward to the future. I have been able to come off a lot of my psychiatric medication.
– I lost 9kgs (about 20lbs) fairly rapidly. Without restricting. Without really trying.
So, for me, this “diet” was the best thing I have ever done. I’m certainly not cured by any means. But I can manage my conditions, and I now have control over something that controlled me, put me in hospital, and very nearly broke me. This knowledge, in itself, is so important for my mental health. Next week I see my immunologist. At my last appointment, a few months ago, I cried and told him that I couldn’t keep going like this. This time, I can go back and say “no” to the steroids and immunosuppresants.
I got this. 🙂