The title is a little misleading, I am over halfway through the initial 30 day detox stage of the autoimmune protocol diet. If I’m honest, I never thought I would get this far.

 

My relationship with food has always been complicated, but  my willpower with diets has never been successful – I have always ended up binging when I restrict myself too much. This time though, something has been different.

 

Maybe it’s the support I’ve had from my family, friends and especially my boyfriend, who has been my main supporter in this diet since I first contemplated starting it. Maybe it’s been the finite preparation every week that I’ve undertaken to ensure I never get hungry and risk binging. Maybe it’s knowing that in a few months, I could be a little closer to knowing what is making my body rebel against me. Maybe it’s a combination of all of these things.

 

What I know for certain though, is that my body has never felt better. Not since before my diagnosis at 17 have I been able to maintain my energy levels and not a single bone ache in my body, without the help of prednisone, of course. Not that I’m without a little ache in the morning, but seriously, if that is all it is, then I could take that for the rest of my life. This freedom from pain is seriously addictive.

 

I know that I’m fairly lucky in the grand scheme of things, as a lot of people who undertake the autoimmune protocol diet don’t have such immediate results. I was lucky that my arthritis was caught quite early, so has yet to cause any joint damage, which can tend to affect people’s results on the AIP diet.

 

In all honesty, I will actually be a little nervous to start reintroducing food. Sure, the restrictive diet is a little tedious at times, and potentially finding out what foods trigger a flare up will be both fascinating and relieving. But this past month has taught me a lot about listening to your body, being mindful of how things like sleep, work and play can affect us, and a LOT about self-control! I tend to think of our lives as chapters of a book, as cliché as it sounds, it helps my mind gather itself. If the current chapter has been about mindfulness and listening, the next is all about learning and evaluating.

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.

For a few years now I’ve been firm in the belief that humans eat WAY too much meat. Seriously, you only need to follow The Food Bible, or watch Epic Meal Time to know that in the Western world, we are obsessed with meat. I know, because I follow The Food Bible, and I drool. Or I did. But now? Not so much.

 

As noted in my recent post, I pump an awful lot of medication into my body on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful for that, but it does make you wonder if there’s an alternative. Thinking about that, combined with this idea of the amount of meat we consume, and a whole lot of anecdotes regarding autoimmune disease & dietary changes, I’ve started to wonder whether I should jump on the bandwagon.

 

I like meat. I used to like it more. Now I find myself being put off, as my medication gives me severe nausea which I find is often triggered by the smell of meat. I’ve found myself cooking a chicken casserole, only to not eat any because the smell has made me feel so ill I lose my appetite. Hungover today, I bought fried chicken on my way home because that’s what I thought my body was craving. But I could barely stomach two mouthfuls of my usual go-to hangover cure. What’s happening to me? I wondered. But then it kind of clicked.

 

So here I am. Foraying into a completely unknown world to me: Vegetarianism. But before I go full plant warrior on you all, let me make one thing clear. This is an experiment. I want to see results before ruling out the omnivore lifestyle completely. But I like vegetables anyway, so it’s not like it’ll be a huge drama for me. More a breaking of routine.

 

That’s it really, I’ll keep you updated. If anyone else has found any health conditions improve after changing to a vegetarian or vegan diet, I’d love to hear from you.

Finding Nemo Scene; Fish are Friends Not Food

My Vegetarian Inspo – Bruce, Finding Nemo (I probably have his willpower too, let’s be honest.)

Every month, around this time, for the last 5 years, whilst waiting in a hospital room, I take a moment to ponder about our society.

 

I sit, in a hospital waiting room, scruffy hair, unshowered, no makeup. This has been my routine for the last 5 years. Because if I don’t do this, then I feel vulnerable. I know this sounds strange. I am a huge advocate for power dressing, making an effort to empower yourself. But in this situation, it’s different. If you look like you’re doing ok, you are not taken seriously.  I’ve tested this before. It’s one thing bringing the average age down in a hospital waiting room by several decades, it’s a whole other thing if you look like you are fine.

 

There’s a perception that people have, that if you look like you can get on with day to day life, then you have no worries. We are all educated well enough now to know this isn’t true. From high functioning depression, to invisible illnesses that fluctuate. But still, the stigma is ever-present.

 

In our current society, the opposite tends to happen. Due to the social media, people portray their rose-tinted life and others expect it’s their reality. People don’t feel like they can be real anymore.

 

I’m guilty of this. You wouldn’t know from my Instagram feed that I have weekly injections and medication to keep me out of a wheelchair. That I have three different medical teams who dictate whether I get said medication. At my lowest, I have screamed into my pillow because the pain was too much to bear, being carried and helped by my loved ones and sobbing to any doctor that would listen. At my best? I am a normal, functioning human being. By societal standards, anyway. I work full-time, I go on holiday, I socialise, I exercise. Nothing about me would lead you to believe there is anything else going on.

 

I know I’m not alone in this. Invisible illnesses have this kind of ‘put up and shut up’ situation, because no-one knows how to behave to someone that doesn’t look like they have a disability.

 

Due to a lack of global evidence, the numbers of people suffering from invisible illness is hard to calculate. At least 5 million people worldwide have lupus. At least 1% of the world’s population has rheumatoid arthritis. 350 million people suffer from some sort of depression. And this is just 3 examples. These are not small numbers. These voices need to be heard.

 

The only way to tackle this, is to stop with the judgement. Don’t presume to know someone because of what they look like. We all fight our own battles. Focus on that instead.

 

This isn’t my usual type of post; I shy away from speaking too much about this because I’m scared of putting it out there that there are times that I can’t function ‘like a normal human being’ – whatever that is. But this has to stop, because by not speaking up, I am guilty of the same crime that so many of us fall victim to.

 

It helps to understand. I’m sure you know at least one person that has an invisible illness. It’s not always easy being supportive when you have no idea how you are supposed to act. These are a few of my favourite blogs that have helped me throughout the years:

Statistics:

http://www.resources.lupus.org/entry/facts-and-statistics

https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/what-is-ra/ra-statistics/

http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/facts-statistics-infographic