In 2011 I set about on a journey to regain my health – a series of dietary experiments. You can read the backstory here. Prior to beginning these trials, I had used an elimination diet to clear up a systemic Candida infection. I was also healing my gut/digestion through the intensive application of probiotics via fermented foods and beverages, and it worked, because cultured food is magical!
By late summer, I was ready to take stock of what I’d learned.
What a journey! To recap:
January was all about teaching myself intuitive eating. I learned to stop following experts and start following my own inner wisdom. I now believe that every body is different, and each has its own nuanced needs.
Cutting out refined sugar in February was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done for my health. I use stevia almost exclusively now (NuNaturals liquid stevia is the unparalleled shiz – stevia skeptics, I swear this stuff will change your tune), and occasional agave, maple syrup, or coconut crystals in special desserts. I don’t miss sugar because I know exactly how it makes me feel, and I desire to feel that way oh, I’d say, about 0% of the time.
In March I worked towards mindful eating, which at the time I found incredibly difficult. Over the months I learned how to listen to – and respect – my body and its cues. I also observed that once my blood sugar was stabilized, my appetite became less erratic and I no longer experienced intense cravings.
In April I eliminated all grains, and I learned that grain-free is NOT for me. I do eat less grains than many vegans, but my body really enjoys foods like oats, quinoa, and buckwheat (all higher-protein grains, I don’t think that’s a coincidence). But I did learn that I don’t do well with wheat, and this year I was actually diagnosed with a gluten intolerance. I’ll write more about that another time, but suffice it to say that I’m much happier and healthier when I don’t eat the glutens (but oh, how I miss them so!)
In May I went RAW and I had a blast. In the last few years, I’ve learned that an all-raw diet is not sustainable (nor desirable) for me, and my overall feelings toward the lifestyle have definitely shifted. Perhaps I’ll write about this, too, in the future, but for now I’ll let Gena’s article, do the talking – she pretty much covers all my feelings.
In June I stayed raw, and cut out the added oils. I learned that a low-fat vegan diet is NOT for me, and honestly I probably did myself a lot more harm than good that month. Hind sight is 20/20, I suppose.
In July I did away with late-night eating, and I learned that my breastfeeding body actually really does require that extra, after-hours fuel, thankyouverymuch!
In August I stopped adding salt to my food. Salt is my perhaps greatest vice, and I learned that I just really, really didn’t need as much as I was using. These days I include salt in moderation, and my taste buds are just as happy, because I’ve retrained them.
In September I sorted through all of this information, and took stock of what I’d learned. Autumn gave me the opportunity to put everything into practice. The holidays are a time of travel and of excess, and it was interesting (and inspiring!) to navigate through a holiday season with such a keen understanding of my inner workings. Usually, by the time New Years rolls around, my poor body is confused abused – between the sugar, caffeine, alcohol, refined flours and baked goods, strange sleep patterns and strange social situations, and all the other oddities that winter seems to bring. But this year I knew what to avoid and what might be okay to indulge in. I re-tested a few things that didn’t agree with me, and it was a nice reminder that 1) I was right the first time and 2) I knew exactly which sings meant “stop!”. Thus, I made it through the 2011 holiday season relatively unscathed.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few other important changes I made along the way. From January through September, I incorporated a number of auxiliary amendments to my health regime, including:
Digestive enzymes, which I took with every meal for a few months at the beginning. I feel like these really helped to get my digestion back on track. I used this brand, and although I no longer take them (and don’t think they should be used long term), I feel like they’re a great little supplement if you ever need a digestive boost.
I also stopped drinking fluids with my meals. Some people believe that drinking with food will dilute your stomach acid and impede proper digestion. I’m not sure if I believe it, but I gave it a shot and it did seem to help. The habit stuck, and for the most part I still don’t drink while I’m eating (I wait about 15 minutes on either side).
Discovering a brand of stevia that I enjoyed (NuNaturals) was seriously life-changing. To be able to add a bit of sweetness to my coffee/tea, my smoothies, my oatmeal, etc, without affecting my blood sugar? REVOLUTIONARY. I heart NuNaturals with big, smiling, sloppy kisses! ♥ ♥ ♥
And finally, I made a more conscious effort to get enough sleep. Not specifically for digestion or blood sugar, but man . . . sleep is so important! When I don’t get enough sleep my emotional health suffers, and when my emotional health is suffering then I tend to make poorer food choices. A = B → B = C → A = Get Enough Sleep!
I embarked on The Great Grand Diet Trial in order to address two health issues I was experiencing: digestive discomfort and blood sugar imbalance. And to that end, I was successful. I cleaned up my digestion and figured out how to eat in a way that keeps my guts humming and happy. I was also able to parse out the incredibly complicated puzzle that was my blood sugar. Now I know what will cause a spike, how to avoid a crash, and why my insulin stability is essential for my mental and emotional well-being.
So in its original intention, this trial was a resounding success. And when it was over, I should have been feeling like a pretty peachy-keen jelly bean, right?
But I wasn’t. At all. In fact, in most ways I was feeling worse than ever, and by the time I stopped blogging in February 2012, I was in a very bad way, both emotionally and physically. I was sick, for real sick, and it was impacting every aspect of my life.
But I’m going to save that story for another time. It’s a long one, and complicated. And probably quite controversial. Sorry to by cryptic. And other alliterative words. Here, one last one: cliff hanger!