As many already know, I’ve been on some form of a restrictive diet for a few years now. I wanted to write a post that explains how this all came about; to share why I’m doing this to myself, how it’s helped, and what it’s been like for me. Sometimes I feel like people don’t understand, so I figured a blog post would be the perfect opportunity to share my story. And a note, when I use the word diet, it doesn’t mean I’m restricting calories to lose weight. In this case, the word diet means simply what I eat.
How it All Started
I had been on the “endo diet” for nearly two years, and was pretty frustrated overall. Two years of not eating dairy, wheat, red meat, pork…the list goes on…and yet, no improvements.
At a friend’s birthday party, I met a woman who would become a good friend. She found out about my autoimmune disorders (psoriasis and endometriosis) and told me about this diet. All my husband heard was “bacon” so we had pretty much jumped on board before we even made it home that night.
It’s Paleo but with an auto-immune protocol (Paleo AIP). I was willing to try anything; it’s not like upending my life with a change in diet was new to me.
A friend sent me this meme when I first jumped on board, and it’s pretty much accurate. Paleo AIP consists of good quality meat, lots of fruits and veggies, and good carbs. After an elimination phase, you reintroduce foods back into your diet one at a time so you can figure out what foods are causing issues. A good reference for what you can and can’t eat during the elimination phase is this chart from Autoimmune Paleo.
Fortunately, my husband was going through boxing training at the time I wanted to start this, so I had his full support during the 28-day elimination phase. Plus, after not eating red meat for most of two years, eating Paleo was like a dream. Everything tasted so good!
It took two cycles before I saw any results, but two months after going Paleo AIP my psoriasis subsided and I had no PMS-associated pain. None. After 21 years of horrible pain at the beginning of every cycle, I now had no pain. It was like a miracle. I didn’t even care about the dreaded CD1 (cycle day one when you find out you’re not pregnant)–I was freakin’ ecstatic to not feel like I was run over by Mack truck the day my cycle started.
Eventually, my psoriasis ended up going away all together. I’ve had psoriasis in some form since 2003; tried topical treatments over the years and ended up learning how to tolerate it and keep it under control. But no more! Now I can wash my hands at a public facility and not deal with the soap irritating my wrists or wear a black shirt with confidence. It’s awesome.
How It’s Been Going
A few months after starting this elimination diet, I did some traveling and that really undid all my hard work. I was in Keystone, Colorado for a few days, and then after that I was in Mexico City for a week. I tried my hardest to keep eating the right foods for me, but sacrifices were made. Not to mention, I rushed the reintroduction process so I’m not a 100% that some of the foods I now eat are things I should be eating. Although my psoriasis stayed away, the pain at the beginning of my cycles came back.
In May 2015 I had surgery to remove endometriosis, and I am hopeful that the procedure, combined with my new eating habits, will result in pain-free cycles from now on.
In August 2015, I restarted the 28-day elimination phase of Paleo AIP. The chart below details my progress regarding reintroduction.
How to Support Me
You might not know it, but this has all been very hard on me. Food is the center of most social situations and gatherings, and to have this taken away has often left me feeling rather alone.
On top of that, sometimes people think I’m being ridiculous or that what I’m doing isn’t necessary. That ends up leaving me feeling even more alone. Just know this: There’s no way I would ever take such drastic measures if it wasn’t necessary.
Plus, the last thing I want in social situations is to have all the attention focused on me. And when you go out to eat or are invited to someone’s house for dinner with as many eating restrictions as I have, it’s next to impossible to not have everyone concerned with me. My number one goal in social situations is to meet the needs of everyone else and not actually have any needs of my own. Now, to be fair, that’s not exactly healthy. And, so, maybe all this has been a blessing. I’ve certainly had to learn how to tell others what my needs are, and then actually let them meet those needs.
And finally, the most difficult thing about the diet, is that it’s a constant reminder that Kelsey and I have been unable to conceive. There’s a connection between food, autoimmune disorders and fertility. Every time I can’t have a bowl of cereal, enjoy some chips and salsa, have an ice cream cone or just eat something where I don’t know all of the ingredients, not only am I sad not to take part in the enjoyment that is eating with others, I’m also sad because I can’t have children in addition to the eating restrictions. I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere because of the infertility, and then the eating restrictions just pile right on top of that, leaving me feeling like even more of an outsider.
So, how can you support me? Well, first of all, just know that we love to hang out with friends. All I need is friends who are okay with me possibly not eating at a restaurant or bringing my own meal to dinner at their house. If you can put aside your good manners and desire to cater to me as your guest, and I know that’s difficult, then I still get to feel like I’m a part of the world instead of a hermit 24/7.
Part 2 of this post will be a collection of recipes that I gathered from every corner of the internet and actually use at home. The post will be a good way for me to keep track of the recipes all in one place, not to mention if anyone else is interested in what this diet looks like in practice, they can take a look and get a good idea.