After doing more research about nutritional deficits in those of us with inflammatory conditions I am more convinced than ever that even though I am trying to improve my diet by eating lest processed food and increasing my veggies and fruits I’m not hitting my nutritional mark. According to some internet research I’ve been doing it is quite possible that I may need more than the average “healthy” person for my body to function at its optimum. I have gone from counting calories, trying the primal diet, clean eating, ect all in an effort to get back to a healthy weight. Right now I am about 25 lbs down from my heaviest and I still have at least 20 to go. I’m sure I can go on some quick fix diet and lose the excess weight by summer only to find myself in a constant yo-yo state trying to maintain my target weight. So I am about to Frankenstein a diet that I think will work for me. I plan to go back to a vegetable based diet. I will keep my carb count at 150 or less every day, and I will allow myself 1 fun size piece of candy a day to keep me from feeling too deprived. I will continue to eat poultry and fish but stay away from red meat. I have vegetarian leanings and I am hoping to one day completely phase meat out of my diet. Right now I’m afraid to do so because I hardly ever hit my recommended daily allowance of iron without giving up meat. Until I find and incorporate enough iron rich veggies in my diet to meat at least half my recommended daily allowance I will be keeping some meat in my diet. In addition to really concentrating on keeping my diet clean and vegetable based I will work out at least 3-4 times a week.
Health is a journey and unfortunately there is no quick fix. I am going to have to understand there will be no 4 lbs lost in a week. It will be slow and steady for me but I believe eating healthy and exercising will get me where I need to be. I believe that the long term commitment needed to lose weight in this manner will become a habit and a way of life. I want a healthy lifestyle more than to look good in a bathing suit this summer. And who knows, I may even make it to my bikini body by late summer anyway.
I decided to keep a food diary as part of my overall return to health. Calorie counting has been an invaluable tool in helping me lose weight. However, I had a sneaky suspicion that my eating habits, while greatly improved, were not good enough so that all my nutritional requirements were being met by my current “improved” diet. And thanks to my cell phone’s fitness app, I was able to track both my calories and nutrient uptake for a month and a half. Doing this confirmed what I had been suspecting all along. I don’t get enough nutrients in my diet. Sure, I’ve been staying close to my recommended caloric uptake but after 6 weeks of tracking my daily nutrition I didn’t meet my recommend daily allowance for iron once. At least a few days a week I don’t get enough protein. And to make matters worse the only vitamins I consistently reached 100% on were Vitamin C, D, and folic acid. And that is not acceptable. It seems that those of us with rheumatoid arthritis are considered to be at nutritional risk according to Johns Hopkins. And I can see I definitely fall into that category. Tracking my food has been a great wakeup call for me. Eating better isn’t good enough. I have to consistently eat well with the knowledge that even if I don’t feel well and maybe because I don’t I need to make better food choices. Until I figure out how to meet my nutritional requirements from whole foods while reducing calories I will be adding one more pill to my daily routine-a multivitamin.
It’s hard when the people around you just don’t “get” where you are coming from. And it seems especially difficult when those close to you don’t “get” the lifestyle changes that are necessary for you to be healthy. During my detox fast and in the days since breaking my detox it has been difficult to get people in my circle to understand that I can’t return to my previous eating habits.
I will have to get used to co-workers peering into my packed lunch and making jokes about how my food choices will result in gas and frequent trips to the bathroom. I will have to learn to smile at the jokes that are made claiming that all I eat are nuts and berries. I will even learn to ignore the insistence that I should cheat almost daily or the concerns that I am not getting enough protein because I no longer eat meat every day.
After all I am the one who has the most to lose if I continue down the path that I was on that was leading me to poor health. The extra weight and strain on my knees does not affect those close to me in any way. They do not have to worry that the inflammatory foods that they consume on the regular basis only aggravate the autoimmune disease raging in their bodies. That can’t rap their head around eating 6-8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. All my friends and family can see is that I am certainly not on the SAD diet anymore (Standard American Diet).
I am embracing a plant based diet the best way I know how. The benefits, for me, were almost immediate. I just feel stronger. My better nourished body seems to handle the daily ups and downs with RA better. I haven’t seen a lessening of my symptoms. But it does seem that I am able to deal with the aches and pains better. It is as if even though one thing isn’t working right everything else is working so much better. And I need this added strength that I am getting from my new lifestyle to deal with my increasing RA symptoms.
I guess what I am trying to say is that those around me don’t need to “get” my healthy journey. All that matters is that I am slowly and surely figuring out what I need to do to have optimum health.
Fresh vegetables are important components of a healthy diet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sometimes a simple phrase or observation can be life changing. It doesn’t always have to be profound. Often times someone it just stating what we all know. It seems that somehow putting the obvious into words gives it a life it didn’t have before. I found myself in this situation this past week. A simple observation truly helped me understand what it will require for me to be successful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It wasn’t rocket science but seeing it there in print seemed to flip the switch on in my mind.
Joe Cross, the subject of a documentary and book called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead was the one who gave me my Ah Ha! moment. The premise of the book and film is basic. A man with uticaria (a rare and life altering autoimmune disease) decides that traditional treatments are not doing enough to control his illness and sets off to make lifestyle changes he believes will improve his quality of life. Mr. Cross basically said in order for him to regain his health he had to pursue it with the same amount of zeal and passion he did for all the other important things in his life. He observed that we spend long days working on our careers. We make time to nurture personal relationships that are important to us. The dishes and laundry also get billing in our busy lives. But the one thing that makes all of these things possible, our health, is the thing that is often placed on the back burner. We as a society continue to steal time from the one pursuit that makes all of our other activities and goals possible. He decided to take 60 days leave in order to pursue a juice fast that he hoped would help control his disease.
The book and documentary have inspired me to do a 15 day detox in which I will only be consuming fruits, veggies, and healthy oils. I am also going to limit my salt intake and instead season my food with herbs and spices. Will this be difficult? I’m sure it will be. Do I need this “detox”? I feel that I do. Even though I am eating cleaner than I have in years I am also putting a lot of stress on my body with the prescription medications and over-the-counter NSAIDs I am consuming. I feel that I need to take this time and nurture my body. Although I expect to lose weight during this detox it is not my main goal. I want to give my body some time to heal itself. The liver does a great job of detoxifying itself naturally. I hope to give it a little break by not pumping it full of any more chemicals than necessary for the next two weeks. My body works hard every day to allow me to have a relatively normal life despite my chronic condition. This is just my way of saying thank-you.
I have no idea whether or not this will have any effect on my RA symptoms. However, I have observed that when I am healthy overall-mind and body-I am better able to handle the curveballs thrown at me by this disease. In this way I do expect this to have a positive overall effect on my health.