I love food.
That’s one thing you have to know about me. I LOVE food.
I never used to; when I was a child I was probably one of the fussiest eaters on the planet, because I simply didn’t enjoy eating or food. So when that started to change when I was 16, it was like a monster had been unleashed. I think about food when I wake up, in between meals, and I’m always planning around my next meal.
So when it occurred to me that my diet might be one of the sources of my chronic pain, it really hit me hard. I’ve lived with rheumatoid arthritis since I was 17, and whilst I’ve dipped in and out of trying different diets to help, it’s never been a priority. I’ve always made an excuse – I can’t, I’m at university, I work full time, I have too much on, I socialise too much. The excuses have been endless.
I take two different types of medication, both of which are potent enough that they produce some pretty nasty side effects, but also have kept me out of a wheelchair and able to hold down a full time job since I graduated, so for that I am grateful. But I also don’t want to punish my body by feeding it the wrong food for the rest of my life, simply topping up with toxic medication that can have other life-altering side effects should I stay on such a high dose for my weight.
The thing about a chronic illness, is that you feel entirely out of control. Which, as someone who is a self-confessed control freak, is never good from a mental health aspect. So a few weeks ago I wanted to take control, which meant dealing with the one aspect that I’ve always tried to ignore. My diet. I have a large appetite and a sweet tooth the size of Everest, so to tackle my diet I was going to have to be drastic, and quick, in case I had a change of mind… nothing like trying to trick your own brain to do something worthwhile!
This is where I learnt about the autoimmune protocol diet. Properly, that is – I’ve been aware of it for a long time but always dubbed it way too extreme to ever attempt whilst I’m living a busy life. But after reading the Autoimmune Wellness Guide that was recommended to me, the authors’ made me realise that this was a way of getting some kind of control back over my body. For someone who has spent many a low moment cursing every single joint in a prematurely-aged body, this is huge.
So here I am.
I’m 2 weeks in to my elimination diet. I cannot fathom the changes I have already seen. To put it into perspective, before this diet, I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint one single day that I would wake up without an ache or pain, which were frequently debilitating. These two weeks have seen me waking up without aching joints in the morning, with more energy and productivity levels are HIGH. I’m hooked.
To those that don’t know, the autoimmune protocol is kind of like a detox for your gut, to repair the health of it that when deteriorated, can exacerbate flare-ups and digestive problems and all sorts of aches and pains. To do this, you have to eliminate certain (and by certain, I mean the majority) of food groups and slowly reintroduce them after a minimum of 30 days elimination. As a quick overview, you are allowed to eat any kind of meat, vegetables (excluding nightshade vegetables ie. peppers, white potatoes, chilli, tomatoes) and fruit. That’s it.
Yes, it’s bloody hard. I’m not going to portray it as a peachy-keen, easy ride, because giving up all my favourite sweet foods, with little substitutions available for someone who doesn’t have time to prepare all week long, is no easy feat. I’ve had social events where for the first time in years I’ve gone completely sober, having to eat beforehand because I know there won’t be anything compliant at an event, and stepping out early from events because I know I’ll just be miserable surrounded by snacks and alcohol.
The results have astounded me, which is motivation enough to carry on and see where it takes me. I’m becoming more adventurous with my cooking and baking, which has given me something to focus on. Plus, I’ve lost a few pounds in the process, while not the primary aim, can only be a good thing if those pounds lost are from foods that are doing no good to my body.
I’m also really curious to see what my body reacts to when I reintroduce, and the feeling of having that control over whether I feel good or bad, is one that is killing me with anticipation! I’d love to document this journey so that if it’s successful, I can look back in a few years and see the moment where I decided to finally take control.
I hope you’ll come along for the ride.