Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Q&A: Lifestyle Changes

I've had several questions recently about the diet & lifestyle changes I've made in the last few years.  For those who are new to my site, I was diagnosed with S.L.E. back in January 2014 and have been working to heal my body ever since.  I realize this topic might not be of interest to everyone, so this won't be an ongoing series...but I did want to answer the questions many of you have sent in.  So I'm talking a little more in depth today about how I've learned to manage my disease & sharing what I eat in a day.  Before I get started, I want to be clear that I don't believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to treating autoimmune disease.  I've worked closely with a functional medicine doctor to create a tailored treatment plan & I'm simply sharing what has worked for me.  This is a lengthy post, so grab a cup of coffee & settle in!

1.  What changes did you make to your diet?
Shortly after being diagnosed with Lupus & doing some extensive research, I adjusted what I was eating & embraced a Paleo diet.  The main principle of this lifestyle is to focus on eating non-GMO organic & sustainably-farmed nutrient-dense foods in an effort to heal inflammation in the body (which aggravates symptoms of autoimmune disease).  I had to cut out processed foods, sugar, soy, dairy, gluten, most legumes, corn, potatoes & rice (which I can now have again in small quantities).  It sounds very strict when you look at the list of foods you can't eat, but when I focus on the affect those things were having on my body, it simply wasn't worth it to continue eating them.

2.  What do you eat in a day?
My version of Paleo consists of mostly vegetables (I try to follow the Wahl protocol guidelines), organic pasture-raised meats & wild-caught fish, free-range eggs, healthy fats & fresh fruits.  My favorite breakfast is pan-roasted brussel sprouts topped with an egg.  For lunch, I typically have a big chopped salad.  Dinners are usually salmon & veggieslettuce-wrapped burgersloaded sweet potatoes or a teriyaki chicken bowl (as shown above).  Because I'm eating three meals a day & filling up on veggies, I find that I don't often feel the need to snack.  But, when I want a little something in the late afternoon, I usually reach for a small handful of raw almonds, a bottle of GT's Kombucha Gingerade or if I'm craving something sweet, I'll have a Larabar.  If you're looking for new clean recipes to try, I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to some of my favorite healthy meals.

3. What's the hardest part about eating this way?
I will admit that it makes eating out very difficult and traveling is also a big challenge.  But I've found the best way to succeed is to plan ahead - if we're visiting a new city, I try to do research beforehand and find a few farm-to-table restaurants and places with a gluten-free menu.  If we're taking a road trip, I will request a hotel room with a refrigerator and bring a cooler with food so I have plenty of options.  During the week when I'm at home, I usually do meal prep on either Saturday or Sunday and make my week's worth of food.  That way, I have everything prepared and I can just heat & eat instead of having to take 30 minutes out of my work day to make a meal.  I also tend to cook in large batches so I can freeze meals to save for later.

4.  How many calories do you eat in a day?
Because I've battled an eating disorder in the past, I don't believe in counting calories (as this just feeds my obsessive-compulsive tendencies).  I also don't believe in eating empty calories - I used to fill my shopping cart with things like fat-free butter & calorie-free maple syrup.  As I mentioned above, my goal is to feed my body with nutrient-dense foods and because I'm not striving for weight loss, I would so much rather enjoy some organic grass-fed butter or Grade B maple syrup instead.  While these are higher in fat & sugar, respectively, they also have omega-3 fatty acids & naturally-occurring minerals like zinc, magnesium, potassium and iron that are better for my body (in moderation) than fake "diet food".

5.  Do you eat 100% clean all the time?
Definitely not!  I have learned what kind of "cheats" that my body can handle - these include raw milk cheeses, organic red wine, white rice, potatoes & an occasional gluten-free dessert.  I have to be pretty careful with the frequency of these -  if I get into the habit of having them too often, I start to experience joint pain, rashes and fatigue.  I'll be completely honest - there are times when I'm frustrated by the limitations of my diet & I'm tempted to have a pity party about it.  But when I look at the big picture and realize that eating the way I used to would force me to be put on steroids & chemo drugs to manage my Lupus, I am quickly reminded of why I made this lifestyle change: to be the healthiest version of myself so I can be an active & engaged wife and mother.  

6.  Will you ever go back to eating the way you used to?
Before I changed my diet, I had frequent high fevers, debilitating joint pain & swelling, extreme exhaustion, rashes all over my body & severe kidney problems - when my flares were at their worst, I had to be hospitalized for treatment.  So, there isn't a single day that I regret making these sacrifices because doing this has truly given me my life back.  I know my kids may look back on their childhood & remember the years before my diagnosis when I was sick all the time & unable to do much...but my hope is that they will have an even stronger memory of their mother fighting like crazy to get her health back & coming out victorious.

If you're dealing with health problems that you can't determine the cause of or if you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and you're not sure where to start, I strongly encourage you to seek out a functional medicine doctor in your area to help figure out the root of the problem & put together a treatment plan to assist you on your path to healing.  If you have any additional questions about my journey, would like to vent to someone who understands or just need some encouragement, feel free to email me directly - I'd be happy to offer support in any way I can.
Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional, nor do I have any medical training. 
Everything shared here is my personal opinion, based on research that I've done & what has worked for me.


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