Monday, September 1, 2014

September 1, 2014: Progress Report

Yesterday I shared my weekly weigh-in as well as what I ate and my exercise for the week. Today, I am looking at the bigger picture: where am I now? How is this working? I like to look at progress over a longer term to get a better feel for things. Here's a basic summary.

I started AIP in mid-July weighing 242 pounds.
Weekly losses: -2, -1, -2, -2, -1, -2, -3, -3
That totals 16 pounds gone in a month and a half:
I lost 6 pounds in July.
I lost TEN POUNDS in August and weigh 226 pounds.

Why the emphasis? Because I have been working on weight loss all this time and in the last two and a half years the most I was able to lose in one month is 3 pounds. In a month. And I was working harder than I am working now. I was also eating less than I am now... about 1200 calories a day on average. I have only counted calories on 3 random days in the past 6 weeks, out of curiosity (not restricting), and my counts were around 1400/day. I am pretty sure I eat more than that on hungry days. I am far less stressed than I used to be about eating. I eat what I want from the AIP template, whenever I want to, including plenty of healthy fats.

I attribute this turnaround to three things: 1) addressing my thyroid dysfunction. Without healthy thyroid function, it can be very hard to get the results you think you *should* get from your efforts. 2) not being confined to a chair most of the time due to debilitating plantar fasciitis. I am not sure people realize how bad this was, but yeah. It was disabling. My activity level is *normal* now. I still don't exercise as much as I should, but just being able to walk around and do stuff all day makes a huge difference. 3) starting the AIP diet, which is not magic or anything, but it does cut out a lot of foods that can give people trouble. Cutting out processed foods, grains, breads, baked stuff, fried stuff, most restaurant meals, eggs, dairy, etc really makes it easier to hold a lower calorie level and not be triggered to overeat.

I still worry I will flip out sometime and go eat a bunch of junk and not be able to get it back together for days or weeks. I hope that doesn't happen, but I have battled an eating disorder for many years and I don't think there is a "cure" for that. I guess I feel like it is in remission right now. But I know it is there, and it makes me nervous sometimes. One bad choice could lead me back down a really bad path. All I can do is keep plugging along and trying to make good-for-me choices and avoid triggering situations... although sometimes, just grocery shopping can be triggering. I'm working on ways to deal with this because I know that even if I get my diet and exercise and thyroid medication to a "perfect" (for me) place, the longstanding, underlying food issues could come out and throw me. I think I am starting to see it more as a disease... like drug addiction or alcoholism... and less as a character flaw or weakness.

Anyway, I am thankful things are going well *now* and I am doing the work to help myself continue on this healthy path. I appreciate your support.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Week and Weigh In

Last week when I decided to reintroduce chocolate, I wasn't sure how that would affect the scale. I mean, this is an elimination diet; I am looking for changes when I add each thing back... changes to tell me whether or not keeping that food in my pantry is a good or a bad idea. Adding chocolate is a tricky thing. The basic ingredient I was adding back, cocoa, is very healthy and nutritious and low in calories. It's not sugary in and of itself, but who eats cocoa plain? I can't eat artificial sweeteners, not even Stevia on AIP, so unless I was making a non-sweet mole sauce, adding chocolate back meant also adding calories and *some* sugar. And sugar can definitely be inflammatory and a trigger. On AIP, "sugar" only comes in the form of fruit in moderation and raw local honey and real maple syrup in small amounts. So I knew I had to watch it with *how* I enjoy my chocolate: amounts, type, and frequency, and pay attention to my overall level of sugar per day. I did need to eat it for several days in a row (5) to be sure it had no ill effects and did not trigger me, and that went very well. I enjoyed an unsweetened cocoa beverage called Choffy, and I made a delicious AIP-compliant chocolate cake (by the way, one slice of this cake *with frosting* contains the same amount of carbs as one medium banana. I knew this amount of sugar would not, in itself, be an issue for me health- or trigger-wise, so any issues would be from the cocoa alone). Everything went very well, and now I can put cocoa on the list of foods I am free to enjoy. This week I am reintroducing seed spices (explained here). These will add almost no calories to my plan but will enhance the flavors of my food. Yesterday I tried some nutmeg in a cup of pumpkin spice "latte" (made with tea and coconut milk) and that was fine. Seed spices can be added as a group rather than one by one; I'll be trying more nutmeg, anise, cumin (which will really perk up my taco meat and chili!), and mustard. 

Weekly Summary

Things I ate:

Peach and ginger "oatmeal" made from squash:

AIP autoimmune protocol breakfast cereal

Nightshade free AIP "Magic Chili"

AIP Autoimmune Protocol chili recipe, nightshade free

Chicken, bacon and mushroom Alfredo: (with cubed yellow squash added)

AIP Autoimmune Protocol recipe

And I got my pumpkin spice fix: coconut milk, black decaf tea, canned pumpkin, maple syrup, and pumpkin pie spice (use cinnamon and ginger instead if you have not reintroduced seed spices). Blend in a blender and warm in a pan.

AIP Autoimmune Paleo Pumpkin Spice "Latte" with tea

Other foods I ate:
Bacon, liver, ground beef, chicken, ground pork
Pattypan squash, onions, beets, parsnips, carrots, garlic, spaghetti squash, sweet potato, beet greens, mushrooms, pumpkin
Cantaloupe, strawberries, bananas, grapes, apples, peaches, plums, honeydew, blackberries
Avocado, olives, coconut milk and cream, beef tallow
Black decaf tea, honey, cocoa, maple syrup, and AIP chocolate cake
Bone broth, kombucha, sauerkraut, gelatin

That's it! No junk. By the way, I think it's a good practice to sit down and list the foods you ate in a week. How long is your list? How much of it is processed? In my notebook and here, I list my proteins first, vegetables next, fruits after that, then fats, extras, and AIP bonus foods last. Makes it easy to see if I am lacking in any category (for example, I did not eat fish this week).

Exercise:

Biked twice (20 min each)
Swam once (30 min)
Walked daughter to school 3x (1.25 mi each)

Scale says: 226 pounds this morning. That's three pounds gone this week! Very happy with that. I feel *so* good and energetic! I am getting a lot done and it feels like my health is so much improved in the past six weeks. Here's hoping my seed spice reintroduction goes well this week.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Autoimmune Protocol: It's Not All About Restrictions

During my first week on the Autoimmune Protocol, I posted a summary called "What is AIP?" in which I listed all the restrictions, all the things I couldn't eat, and moaned about how much I hated it so far and how much it sucked. I printed out a long, long list to post on the fridge to remind myself of all the things that were now off limits. I was not excited about the prospect of eliminating almost every food I ate daily. But now, almost 6 weeks later, oh how my tune has changed! I *love* this way of eating and what it has done for me.

However, the restrictions, while necessary, are not the only thing that has to change on AIP. This is not just about food. It is about healing yourself, about gut health, about possibly putting an autoimmune disease into "remission" and reducing your symptoms. It's about doing what is necessary to take care of yourself. I learned all of this in my research, and found this book to be the most helpful: The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body. It is written by a PhD and the explanations are steeped in science. But let me just touch on a few of the other things I am doing to improve my health.

In addition to a list of foods that you cannot eat, there is also a list of important foods to *include* for better health, because they are nutrient-dense (click the links on each food to read more about those benefits).

1. Bone broth (made from grass fed animals, simmered for a long time to break down the bones and joints.) This one was easy for me. I like bone broth. I just have to make time to cook it and then I have a nice warm mug of broth with breakfast or for a snack each day.

2. Organ meats. This one was tougher, but I did it. Grass fed liver:

AIP grass fed cow's liver, raw

Yeah, gross. If you want the full effect, click the photo for a larger version. I had never even seen a liver until this one. I got it from a local farmer with grass fed beef. I HATE handling raw meat so this was way out of my comfort zone. But it is supposedly so good for you and I wanted to do AIP correctly. So I used this recipe for pate and chopped that sucker up and cooked it with onions.

autoimmune protocol liver and onions

Then I whipped it up with herbs to make this "delicious spread" too have on raw carrots or cucumber slices.


Um. No. Just... no.

It was seriously just so far worse than I expected it to be, and the recent memory of that raw, bloody liver in my hands did nothing for my appetite. But by gosh, I made this! It was so nutritious. There had to be a way to get it down. I'd read that even a small amount of liver is beneficial. So I divided the recipe into 4 baggies and froze 3. Every day I would try to eat a little bite in a different way: warm on a carrot, cold on a cucumber, mixed into meat. I even tried to make a little ball of the frozen pate and swallow it with water like a pill, but don't try that. It gets stuck in your throat and you start gagging up liver and that is one flavor you do NOT want to choke on. Trust me.

Eventually I found it easiest to heat up 1-2 tablespoons of pate in the pan with my morning bacon and just scoop it up onto the end of the bacon and eat it. 

I also purchased some ground beef that is 25% ground heart and liver. I will be trying that next week as a meatloaf or meatballs... heavily seasoned.

3. Fermented foods. Introducing good bacteria into the gut helps with healing. Probiotics are nice, but fermented foods are even better. This was easy for me; I started buying Bubbie's sauerkraut and pickles (no vinegar added; naturally fermented) and drinking the occasional glass of kombucha (from the grocery store... but watch the ingredient list!)

4. Fish, grass fed gelatin, and healthy fats. I love fish, and eating wild salmon gives me healthy fats I need, too. I also get my fats from olives (canned with salt and no additives and NO pimentos, which are a nightshade), coconut milk, and avocados for the most part.

When I make sure I get these foods into my diet every week, I definitely feel better and have more energy.

Aside from food, there are some lifestyle components to the Autoimmune Protocol.

1) getting adequate sleep (8-10 hours/night) and its role in reducing inflammation. If you have read my blog for long, you know I have had sleep issues from the time my last child was born. I had to be up every 2 hours in the night (minimum) when she was a baby, and I never really got back into a good sleep schedule. Even when I have a nice quiet, dark room by myself all night, I was waking up every 2 or 3 hours for pretty much no reason. Well, sometimes I had to pee, or sometimes there was a kid in the kitchen fixing himself a late night snack (and I wake up at the slightest sound!) I also would wake up from heartburn sometimes. But now, on this diet I am sleeping better and more soundly. No more heartburn or acid reflux. I didn't know this, but nighttime waking can be a symptom of thyroid disease. Since starting Synthroid I have slept better and I no longer wake every 2 hours. I do still wake around 3 every night, but usually can get back to sleep. I generally go to bed earlier now and get up as late as possible (usually around 7 am). Better sleep has really increased my quality of life.

2) reducing stress. This was a huge one for me! I spent most of my life dealing with stress by binge eating. That is not a good option at all. And while this is probably the hardest part of AIP for me (even harder than liver), it is also one of the most essential for my health. So I am working on this every day. There are two parts to this. First is reducing the actual sources of stress so there is less to deal with. So far, I dropped a volunteer position that had turned into a source of stress for me, and I have cut a toxic person or two out of my life. I made some new rules, such as, if I do not want to answer the phone, I don't. If I do not want to say yes to an obligation, I smile and say no. I pay more attention to what I truly want and focus on the things that bring me and my family joy. The second part to the equation is learning to actually deal with stress in a more effective manner. I'm working on this one... but it's tough. I still *want* to turn to food, but am doing so far less often and making much healthier choices when I do. I have been learning basic meditation, which I find quite soothing. I have learned to center myself and control my breathing and even lower my own blood pressure in this way. I try to turn to friends, relax in a warm bath, or even just have a good cry. Sometimes I cook, which I find very calming as well. Standing in the kitchen peeling and chopping vegetables puts me in a good, happy state of mind. Walking, biking, and swimming all help reduce stress in the body, too, and moderate exercise is another part of the AIP lifestyle, as is getting outside in the sun every day. 

So you see, it's not just about restrictions. On AIP, there is a lot to *do* for your health. And those are the things I am now focusing on. 

I am no doctor, but if you have struggled with random symptoms and just don't feel well, or if you know you have an autoimmune disease, you might consider AIP. Hey, it's just a month, and then you can slowly add things back! Ask your doctor. This has changed my life.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chocolate Cake for Dinner? Yep.

I had a rough couple of days this week. Just circumstances, stuff I have to deal with, emotionally draining but, you know, it's life. After two particularly harrowing days (during which I stayed 100% AIP as usual), I was really drained. There were a couple of times that I truly thought about how nice it would be to make a run for some crunchy cookies, or some other dessert. After all, I used to cope every.single.day with stress by eating junk food! It's something I've avoided lately. But boy, some days a girl just needs her chocolate! Which is doable for me, since I've reintroduced cocoa on the AIP. So today, I just decided, you know, to have chocolate cake for dinner.

Chocolate cake!

Yep, there is an AIP recipe for a "chocolate cake" made with carob (which some people allow on AIP, but I didn't use) so I just subbed cocoa equally and prayed that somehow, putting 2 green plantains, a banana, some canned pumpkin, cocoa, maple syrup and coconut oil in a blender (with no eggs and no flours of any kind) would magically turn into cake. I had my doubts... but...

Dinner!

AIP autoimmune Paleo "chocolate" cake

Yeah. It was amazing. I made the frosting by whisking together coconut cream, cocoa, and honey with a dash of vanilla.

I thought it tasted just like a bakery cake. My son came into the kitchen for a bite as I was telling him how great it was. He took a bite and looked at me and said, "wow, you are really used to eating bland, boring stuff." LOL! He is right! My taste buds have changed from 90% of my intake being meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit. He said it was not very sweet, and not all that chocolatey, and overall kind of bland. But to me it was the best cake ever. Good enough, I don't want to go back to the old, processed stuff anyway.

Not going to make a habit of eating cake for dinner, but tonight, it really filled the need. I'll freeze some slices (unfrosted) so I can bring them out when the PMS strikes. I am feeling great!

*Edited to add nutrition facts:

Cut your cake into 9 squares and here are the stats, without frosting:
150 calories
8.5 g fat
21 g carbs
2.5 g fiber
1 g protein
(and notably, 38% of your RDA of Vitamin A for the day!)


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Stuff I Did, and Weigh In

This week I wasn't sure what to expect from the scale. I had my first successful reintroduction (chocolate), didn't get to the gym much, and went to another fair. About the fair... it was so much fun! All the rides, exhibits, bunnies and chickens and goats... there was a *lot* of walking around, to the point my feet did start to hurt and I had to find some sitting areas later in the day. But we were there for several hours so I guess I did okay! I ate before I went but wow did all that fair food smell good! When it was dinnertime, I scoped out all the places selling meats, looked for the ones that looked the least seasoned (no taco meat!) and then asked the cook at the cheese steak booth about the seasonings on his meat. When I determined it was AIP-friendly, I ordered one cheese steak... no bun, no cheese, no mayo, no peppers. Haha, the look on his face! They complied, though, and I got a nice BIG plate of cooked steak, grilled onions, and mushrooms. It was quite delicious and I couldn't even finish it all! I left the fair feeling very satisfied and not like I was missing out at all.

Anyway, let me get the food stuff out of the way first. Yesterday I made:

Rainbow roasted root vegetables (red and Chioggia beets, sweet potato, orange and white carrots)

AIP recipe, rainbow roasted root vegetables with Chioggia beets

Beef bone broth (made from local, grass fed beef bones roasted and simmered for 12 hours)

grass fed bone broth

(This made enough for two quarts of bone broth to use during the week, plus the lovely white tallow at the top of the jars to use in cooking).

AIP Blackberry blueberry cobbler for one (I made 1/4 of the recipe, so good topped with coconut cream!)

Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) Blackberry cobbler

AIP  Paleo berry cobbler

I also made watermelon-lime fruit juice gummies (grass fed gelatin is a recommended supplement on AIP), but they didn't turn out how I imagined. They have a texture of really firm Jell-o. I'll still eat them though.

Other stuff I ate this week:

Bacon, chicken breast, flat-iron steak, pork cube steak, liver (just a few bites), wild salmon
Buttercup squash, pattypan squash, onions, Romaine, beets, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, sweet potatoes, spinach, cucumbers
Cantaloupe, watermelon, apples, bananas, plums, peaches, berries
Olive oil, avocado oil, olives, avocados, coconut oil, coconut flakes, coconut milk
Kombucha, sauerkraut
Black decaf tea, honey, Choffy, Trader Joe's mints, cocoa

That's it! Simple eating.

Activity for the week:

Biked 4 days (15, 20, 20, 30 minutes)
Swimming once (30 minutes)
Walking a lot at the fair and once for exercise (about 1.5 miles)

Feeling: great! Good energy, sleeping well, feeling well-fed.

Scale this morning said: 229 pounds. That's THREE pounds gone this week. Super excited about this. When I started AIP I did it solely for my health. I had had enough of fighting my body with diets and while I was on hiatus went full force into getting *well*, which meant a lot of things: doctor visits, a new elimination diet, eating stuff like liver and fermented foods and bone broths, getting better sleep, and taking the Synthroid my doctor prescribed. I put my weight on the back burner, stopped counting calories and carbs, and just zoned in on doing AIP 100% and treating my body correctly. And look, look! The weight is coming off better than it has in years! Can you believe it? Because I hardly can. I said it two weeks ago and I'll say it again: I feel like I am getting better results with *less* effort now, whereas for the past two years I was putting in WAY MORE effort (into weight loss) and getting basically nowhere. Well, I won't question it, I am just so thrilled things are going so well, and I'll keep working at AIP reintroductions and taking good care of my body.

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