I first embarked on my weight loss journey back in 2010. My first stop en route was Weight Watchers. Since then, I have tried lots of different diets and plans, adopting a kind of trial and error philosophy. I have spent a number of years experimenting with Paleo and other whole food approaches and I considered my diet to be fairly “healthy.” I had eliminated or reduced a lot of different foods throughout the years. Refined grains and sugars predominantly. Don’t get me wrong, I still ate bagels and birthday cake, but they were definitely what I called “sometimes foods!”
I have had a long history of stomach problems. I was originally diagnosed with IBS in my early 20s, but in truth, I had never had an easy time with my gut. I would frequently experience abdominal cramping, bloating and other symptoms I will spare you the details of! I could probably write an entire post on IBS, and perhaps some day I will, but for now, let’s me just say it isn’t pleasant. Having gone through a battery of tests, I was eventually advised by the hospital to try the FODMAP diet, late last year.
This diet is essentially an elimination diet. It not only calls for the exclusion of know gut irritants such as gluten and lactose, but also lots of fruits and veggies (garlic, onions, apples, butternut squash to name just a few.) It was a tough diet to adhere to, but anyone who has experience of IBS will understand that I was happy to try just about anything if it meant no pain. So off I went with my list of banned foods, determined to stick to it rigidly and looking forward to feeling better!
For the first week or so that was exactly what happened. I had no stomach pain and I really felt like my insides were working properly for once. However, towards the end of the second week on the diet, I got sick, and pretty much stayed sick for 3 months. As discussed in The Winter of My Discontent!
I am not a good patient and I was getting really fed up with feeling crappy. I was also quite indignant! I look after myself, I eat well, I exercise, drink water etc. How can my body be doing this to me when I am so “healthy?” Except, wait a minute. Surely if I am sick all the bloody time, that means I am NOT healthy? As the days in pajamas passed, I had a lot of time to think about what might be going on. Could it be that I had eliminated too many foods from my diet for it to be providing adequate nutrition? Could it be that in my quest for health and wellness, I had pushed my body in the opposite direction?
By the beginning of January I had had enough. I had a wretched cough which had been driving me and everyone else nuts for weeks. I was on an antibiotic, which I knew was going to run me down even further. Something had to be done. I spoke to my sister and mother at length and came up with a strategy. Firstly, I was going to start on a strong Probiotic (I take BioKult) to try to restore the balance in my gut. Secondly, I was to start taking a “tonic” as we we have called it growing up (I was advised by my mother to try Revive Active, and mother knows best) Thirdly, and perhaps, most importantly, I was going to reintroduce most of the foods I had eliminated.
This didn’t mean going gangbusters in the bakery aisle. Instead it meant bringing back foods which I know to be nutritious, and which don’t seem to cause problems for my stomach. So for example, apples are still out because I have identified them as triggers. But all the vegetables I had been avoiding came back. That very day, I got the recipe from my sister for a chicken stew. Packed to the brim with veggies, and chicken cooked on the bone, it not only tasted amazing, but I could actually feel it doing me good.
At the risk of sounding dramatic, I think that stew may have saved me, or at least sped up my recovery. Since then I have been experimenting with more stews and casseroles. Good healthy, whole foods, just like mom used to make. It has been a couple of months since I finished my antibiotics and I am happy to report that I feel great. Like my old self again. Furthermore, I feel fortified and resilient. Confident that I can fight off any little nasties that come my way. Even the Beast from the East doesn’t scare me, with a pot of stew on the go!
I have always said that healthy lifestyle is about trial and error. What works for someone else, might not work for you. What worked for you in the past might not be what your body needs now. If something is not working for you, change it. I clung to my ideas of what a healthy diet looks like, long after it was clear that it wasn’t working, and it was to my detriment. My illness forced me to reexamine everything and I am so glad that I did. As the saying goes “Don’t hang on to a mistake, just because you spent a long time making it.” Be well xxx