This summer has been such a doozy for me when it comes to health and diet. To get to this photo I’m sharing below, I first need to share a bit about the three-month journey I’ve been on to radically change the way I eat—and why.
Back in late July, on my family vacation, I noticed things coming to a head in the whole “I don’t feel good” department. I tried to rationalize why I felt more tired than ever before and why my body ached and felt, literally, inflamed. It was the oddest thing, but I just felt completely, entirely OFF.
A lot of people in my life rationalized the symptoms when I described them. “Oh, you’re sore because you’re carrying around a baby all day now” was the one I heard the most. But I knew that wasn’t it. I also knew that, for much of the summer, as I worked long hours at my day job on a commercial project and indulged in a lot of fatty/processed foods and drinks (especially wine and a few martinis while in New York), diet and a lot of stress likely had something to do with this. I just didn’t know how MUCH it would have to do with it. The first weekend in August, Nick and I took Dean to the State Fair. I’d never been and told myself, “Gail, you’ve GOT to go all out — eat the fried Twinkie ’cause you’re at the state fair!” And so I did, along with a few other things so not good for me. The next day, during church, I came thisclose to passing out. I was depressed, sluggish and could barely keep my eyes open. All I could think was WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?
That afternoon, we got home and I decided to detox. For a week I ate only baked chicken breast, carrots and blueberries because I was so panicked by the way I had been feeling. And I couldn’t function anymore like it—mentally or physically. After just a few days of stripping away the “junk”, I was feeling improvements. Then I discovered Alejandro Junger’s CLEAN Method and got even more serious about my diet being at the root of things. When I started reading Junger’s book, I realized how much it was resonating with me and decided to do the program (which requires you to cut out all gluten, red meat, dairy, processed foods, white sugar and alcohol; I also researched and purchased a few of his suggested supplements on my own).
Within two weeks of eating this way, my joints no longer hurt. Within four weeks, the “gut” I’d always carried with me, even before I had a child, was completely gone. The ab muscles I could always feel under it? Front and center. I just couldn’t believe the benefits I was feeling. It was all the motivation I needed to keep going.
And so, here I am today, almost two months after I started eating this way. I don’t miss a lot of what I used to eat (which I take to be another sign my body is thanking me for the switch). I’m still having some issues as I experiment with introducing certain foods back into my diet (eggs and gluten especially) but I will be asking my new doctor about those next month (my old general practitioner left Muncie during my pregnancy and the waiting list for my new doctor’s office was MONTHS long!) I want to ask specifically about issues with possibly my thyroid and gallbladder, as my family has a history of problems with both (and, when out of whack, can wreak havoc on your digestive system).
So, anyway, why am I sharing all of this with you? For a couple reasons:
It’s made me a more compassionate person: I used to be one of those people who poo-pooed the whole gluten-free thing. It was a fad, I thought, like Atkins. But going through these past three months of constantly second-guessing what I’m eating and how it’s going to make me feel has given me such compassion for people who struggle with food sensitivities and allergies. ESPECIALLY those with celiac disease (which, for the record, I do not have. I am, however, certain my whole family has gluten issues —so many things we’ve struggled with, from eczema to belly bloat to irritable bowel, all are symptomatic of food sensitivities to gluten in particular. It would also explain why my stomach has never looked better IN MY LIFE).
It’s made me question if other people may be suffering similar ailments and not connecting the dots to their diet: Maybe for you it’s really bad seasonal allergies or dry itchy eyes. Maybe it’s irritated skin. Maybe it’s belly bloat. Maybe it’s the whole “this food goes right through me after I eat it” syndrome. Maybe it’s not sleeping well or having “foggy brain” (something I’d also had over the summer). Maybe it’s achy joints. If you’re suffering from ANY of those things, I’d recommend taking a serious look at your diet first before medications. As I read in Junger’s book (he’s a board-certified heart surgeon, BTW!), when people with food sensitivities eat the foods they are sensitive to, their bodies have to go into overdrive to process them. When that happens, it means the body can’t carry the load for the rest of your system and so, you’ll often have breakdowns elsewhere (in the form of allergies or skin issues or even depression) as a result.
This is a lifestyle change for me: It’s such a weird place to be in right now. I was never one to really worry about what I ate. At least, not in this sense. So now I’m giving up some of my favorite foods (OMG the one thing I DO miss is pizza). And while I may still eat them every now and then as treats, now I do so unfortunately knowing they are going to cause me problems either digestively or in the way I overall feel. (Nick is having as hard a time understanding this as I am and I told him that it’s almost like, when I eat something I shouldn’t, I have a food hangover. It’s bizarre).
Is getting older and/or having a child a trigger to all of this? I’ve asked myself SO many times why am I having these issues now? I still don’t understand that. And if I hadn’t have gone through literal pain to get to these answers, I probably would still be eating the way I was, not making any of the other connections (the belly, the headaches, the dry skin and allergies) I’ve made since. I’m just wondering how many other people out there, as they’ve gotten older, have had their bodies get sensitive to certain foods. Especially for you mothers out there (first time moms in particular). Does this resonate with any of you?
At this point, bless you if you took the time to read all of this. I’m happy to answer in the comments any questions you might have about this diet if you’re curious. All I can say is, while it may not always be easy and it requires me to put a lot of thought into our weekly meal planning, I just can’t go back now. Not when I’m feeling so much better than I was.
This is me with one of my favorite juice concoctions from the summer (pineapple, cucumber, lemon, green apple). I’ve been juicing more lately (using a Breville), making a lot of shakes for breakfast (as per the CLEAN program) and making us foods like stir frys for dinner (I still eat a lot of rice and quinoa for grains), or fish, chicken and turkey with veggies on the side. I’m also making some gluten-free versions of things like muffins with good results!