Day 34: Amazing food without cheating!

I knew today would be better than yesterday, and it was 🙂

Work was still pretty shit. The day after a big screw-up is still the day after a big screw-up. But I left work earlier than usual, swung by my favourite supermarket, and picked up some gorgeous wine for tonight.

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Cappupino Cinnotage by Boland Cellar. Absolutely decadent!

As soon as K got home, we cracked open our coffee pinotage and retired to the couch. Unexciting as it is, our favourite way to spend a Friday night is together, just the two of us, watching series and eating yummy food.

By the time supper rolled around, I was onto my third glass of wine. Perhaps a bit too much for day 34, but I feel I’ve been SO controlled for more than a month, that it’s not the end of the world.

You say tomato…

Hello tomatoes! My tummy felt great today, all day, despite TWO cups of coffee at work (about 4 hours apart), so I decided it was time to test the tomatoes. I plonked them in two batches into boiling water to make it easy to remove the skin. Don’t leave them in too long! I made that mistake with the first batch, which made it difficult to get the seeds out (as they just fall apart). One minute is enough. I peeled them all, cut them into quarters, and scraped out the seeds and ‘veins’, and then placed all the flesh into a pot of water with some chopped garlic (yay for garlic!).

Not mine... but mine will look this profesh next time round ;-)

Not mine… but mine will look this profesh next time round 😉

While it cooked, I made some gem squash and grilled a piece of venison meat. Venison is interesting. It smells terrible when it’s cooking – like wet dog. The whole apartment stank! But it tastes great. Even K liked it, and she usually tells me that my SCD meat tastes like ‘balloon’.

While I was cooking, I asked her to mash my avo for me. Mashing it is not essential but I prefer it. This is what she did:

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So cute! And then, my dinner was ready. And this is what it looked like:

Venison steak, gem squash and butternut, and tomato sauce with garlic

Venison steak, gem squash and butternut, and tomato sauce with garlic

It was such a wonderful dinner, with so many different flavours. I LOVE adding avo to my meal. It works especially well with meat, and the creaminess fills the void that may be left by a lack of sauce or flavourings.

It’s been about an hour or two since I ate, and I feel fine. No bloating as yet, and no discomfort. While I’m relying on the squashy veg almost daily, I’m adding more and more elements to create different kinds of meals.

The problem with wine

The wine seems to be going well, but there’s just one problem: It always has, and seems to still, cause me intense cravings. When I drink, all I want is SUUUUUGGGAAAAAAAAR. I haven’t cheated and I won’t, but it’s a consuming desire that I can’t seem to talk myself out of. K is sitting next to me eating Lindt balls that I bought for her. I saw them in the supermarket and I couldn’t resist, because they are CARAMEL! I’ve never seen them before and she loves caramel. I am quite literally salavating at the sight. Red wine and chocolate would be my personal heaven right now. I mean, just look at these babies!

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But if this is the worst of it, I can handle it. I’ll have another banana, I’ll finish my wine, and I’ll brush my teeth. I am so excited to be expanding my diet with exciting new foods every few days, and the cravings, while not entirely pleasant, are completely manageable.

Now it’s time for movies, then a hot shower and a delicious soft bed. Oh weekend, how I love you!

How is your eating going?

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If you have IBD, you may have other health issues too

Last night I wrote a piece about my ulcerative colitis – or more to the point, what I think precipitated its onset. It’s a long, miserable story about a horrible man and an abusive relationship, and I’ll post it here at some point when I feel like depressing the hell out of you all 🙂

Anyway, it got me thinking about two of my other health issues, one of which started during the same relationship, and the other which I’ve had almost all my life.

‘Psoriasis’

When I was 25, I suddenly became covered in scaly red spots, which were about 5-10mm in diameter. They covered my legs and stomach, and I also had some on my arms and torso. It took me a few months to have them checked out (I have NO idea how I was not more concerned that I had spots covering my body for months!), and the dermatologist diagnosed psoriasis. Or as I like to say, ‘psoriasis’. I was DEVASTATED. I Googled it and foresaw a future riddled with scales and raw, unsightly patches of skin; flaking scalp and oozing sores.

He prescribed lotions and potions that cost the earth – lots of coal-tar concoctions – which kinda-sorta helped. The major outbreak cleared up, but the spots never disappeared altogether. To this day, I have between 10 and 20 on my body at any given time. They are mostly on my legs, but right now I also have two on my butt, some on my ribs and a few on my back and arms. They look like this:

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But the point is that it’s surely not psoriasis. A few years after my ‘diagnosis’, my sister went to see him about a similar skin condition, and he must’ve pulled my file out too. He mumbled something to her about having probably ‘misdiagnosed’ me, and to tell me that maybe it was just eczema actually. I must just say that we have many excellent doctors in South Africa, but he wasn’t one of them!

This also highlights the danger of diagnosing a patient too soon, or without enough evidence. I was inconsolable at the diagnosis, and now look: I’m no longer covered in spots, and while they do itch and irritate me a bit, it’s hardly psoriasis.

As an aside, the gastroenterologist I visited in 2012, who performed a gastroscopy and colonscopy, didn’t diagnose any illness. He didn’t want to label it ‘colitis’ in case it was a once-off occurrence. Only late last year did my physician put a name to it – two long, bloody flares later.

I also get weird ‘blisters’ on my hands and feet. They’re small and itchy, and when they pop, they leave dry, scaly patches behind. But they are also hardly noticeable to anyone but me. My sister gets this too.

I also have ONE WART that I just cannot get rid of! It’s the legacy of my horrid ex, I do believe.

Asthma

I’ve had asthma almost my whole life. I was diagnosed at the age of 2 or 3, when I used to have severe attacks. I was told I’d grow out of it, but I never really did. While I no longer (touch wood) have asthma attacks, and haven’t for many years, I still experience wheezing and tightness in my chest when I exercise, become ill, or when I’m around cats and dogs.

I’m VERY allergic to pets, though dogs are worse than cats. I also tend to become accustomed to my own pets. I don’t have any right now, but we’d love to get a cat when we have a bigger place and it can play outside. When I was diagnosed asthmatic and allergic-to-everything-on-the-planet (my allergy tests are a joke and I even come out in red spots after I shower, swim in the sea or get too hot/cold), my mom was told to get rid of her cats but she refused! I think it probably made me more resilient.

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Other than that, I’m pretty healthy. I don’t generally suffer from winter colds and flu, nor do I get stomach bugs (weirdly enough!) or any other illnesses, usually.

I’ve heard of other people with IBD who also have eczema, psoriasis or other conditions, and I often wonder if there’s a link. For me, I definitely think the stress of my bad relationship precipitated both the dermatological and digestive problems.

Do you have any other health issues besides your digestive problems?

Day 33: Symptoms

Today was not a particularly great day.

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The nurse came to see me and take blood and urine samples for my dread disease cover. That put me in a bit of an anxious mood because I HATE finger pricks. Ugh!

Then the shit hit the fan with a client at work. I made an error in a piece of copy I’d written, and because we’d been short on time, it hadn’t been subbed by our sub-editor prior to publishing, so the mistake wasn’t picked up. The client was FURIOUS (I’d written ‘top pics’ instead of ‘top picks’ – stupid, careless error, but an error nonetheless, and one that was remedied in seconds – the beauty of online!). I felt they completely over-reacted and was supremely pissed off.

Selfie of me at work today

Selfie of me at work today

By midday, I was annoyed, stressed, angry and generally miserable – and bloated! Plus, just to hammer in the final nail, I wrote a piece today about a bad relationship I was in years ago, and which I wholeheartedly believe was a major contributing factor to my UC. That put me in quite a funk. I plan to publish it on an online news site, and I’ll share it here too.

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My big fat BM mistake

I woke up this morning and had a good BM, but I didn’t feel ’empty’. I ignored the feeling because I was in a rush to get to work. NEVER DO THAT. I’ve read that not going when you need to can lead to constipation, as water starts to be absorbed by the colon and the stool gets harder. By the time I eventually took a moment to go to the loo at work, it was too late. Constipation had set in, along with its BFF, Bloat.

The bloating never actually abated today, so I held off on introducing tomatoes. No point in trying something new if you’re not feeling 100%(ish) percent, because how will you know if the new food is agreeing with you or not? Once again today, I understood how people retreat to their SCD safe zones and eat three foods for months on end. Supper was chicken and squashy veg, which I chewed on morosely while K enjoyed the (reportedly) delicious Thai chicken and coconut soup I made for her.

I also craved sugar today, and felt almost physically ill when I looked at yet another bunch of bananas in my cupboard.

Peaks and valleys, I guess. Peaks and valleys.

I know tomorrow will be better. While there are highs and lows, the general trend is an upward one, so I’m not concerned. Everyone keeps telling me how amazed they are, and how proud they are of my progress, and it really spurs me on.

Also, my nut milk bag is in the mail. SO EXCITED!

Nut milk bag

Nut milk bag

Why the bloat?

The bloating was probably caused by the constipation, but it might also be a result of all the new drinks I’ve been testing. This week I admittedly introduced a number of new things, not least of which were wine and coffee, so maybe my gut is giving me a ‘woah there, lady’ while it composes itself. I also suspect that the garlic made me gassy – though I was eating much more of it that one usually would, in order to test it (I’m talking 8 or 10 cloves at dinner). It didn’t bloat me though.

I’m SO HAPPY that tomorrow is Friday. We have a busy weekend planned, complete with a picnic followed by an open-air theatre performance of Richard III. I can’t wait! I’ll be packing eggs, bananas and wine! What are you planning for the weekend?

My favourite, of course, being 'food'

After ‘food’, of course

Day 32: SCD yoghurt and bloating

Just got back from dinner at my folks. Well, my folk. My mom is in Malaysia at the moment, touring Kuala Lampur with my uncle. This is EXTREMELY brave of her as she’s never travelled alone before (he met her there from Australia) and she does a lot of the sightseeing on her own, as he’s only interested in shopping! She was a very adventurous soul as a youngster, so it’s been years since she’s done something this ‘daring’, and I’m proud of her.

Anyway, Candice (my sister) and I had a great time with my dad, just talking rubbish and eating clean (far better for the soul than talking clean and eating rubbish!). My dad cooked me gem squash and boiled eggs, to which I added my roasted garlic and some butternut.

For some reason, I was so bloated after dinner. I don’t know why – but what I do know is that it could’ve been for a million reasons. The squash and eggs were cooked perfectly, but maybe there was a pesky gluten interloper somewhere in there? Maybe I drank too much water with dinner? Maybe I ate too many eggs? I didn’t have any meat tonight, so the two eggs for breakfast and three for supper might just be WAY too many.

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I’m at home now and drinking wine (must do the proper 3-day testing of course). I didn’t have a hangover today, and by the time I went to sleep last night, after my dinner and wine, I had no bloating and no discomfort, so I think the wine is okay. PHEW! I won’t overdo it though. I think a glass a day would be an absolute max, and to be honest, I’ve never been one to drink every day – weekends only, usually.

Strangely though, I woke up at about 2am and could not fall asleep again. I don’t usually have sleep troubles so it was very weird for me. A colleague told me today that alcohol can interrupt the second half of your sleep, so perhaps that was the problem. Plus, I did add coffee and wine all on the same day.

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Making my own yoghurt

Today, my yoghurt maker arrived – as did the live, lactose-free yoghurt cultures that I EVENTUALLY tracked down in Joburg. They were sent to me on ice, along with a thermometer for measuring the temp of my mixture, and my lovely dad collected the lot for me from the post office.

I’ve also ordered a nut milk bag so that I can make my own nut milks, and as soon as that arrives, I will be making SCD yoghurt! I’m so excited! I feel like I’m a pair of leather sandals, a campfire and a rendition of Kumbaya away from full hippie-dom, but I do feel this is a great investment for my health.

Pretty sure this is *not* how my first batch will turn out

Pretty sure this is *not* how my first batch will turn out

The only thing that concerns me is that SCD yoghurt combines so many things in a single end ‘product’ and I haven’t tested any of them: nut milk – using almonds or coconut – honey and live cultures. But I think I’m just going to make it and see how it goes. After all, you can introduce nut milks on phase 2, and there’s no set rule about honey. The yoghurt is supposed to be so, so good for the gut, and I’m extremely excited to make it. Do any of you have any thoughts on this? I’d love to hear your experiences.

Current diet round-up

Since I’ve been on the SCD for 32 days, I thought I’d give a quick overview of all the things I’m eating and drinking right now, as well as the supplements I’m taking, to give you an idea of where you might expect to be at a similar point. Of course, it’s different for everyone and you must go at your own pace. I’ve introduced all new foods (starred*) at an interval of 3 to 4 days.

Meat:

Chicken (grilled; skinless and boneless OR with skin removed after cooking; boiled or baked)

Beef (mince/steak; lean, with fat trimmed off; grilled)

Fish (baked)

Venison (steak/mince; grilled/grilled meatballs)

Ostrich (mince; grilled meatballs)

Vegetables:

Carrot (cooked until very soft; pureed)

Butternut*

Gem squash*

Zucchini* (peeled and seeds removed)

Garlic*

Mushroom (tested; doesn’t agree with me)

Fruit:

Apple (tested; doesn’t agree with me)

Bananas* (very ripe, with brown spots)

Pear* (cooked and pureed)

Avocado* (raw; ripe)

Seasonings:

Salt (pure; no additives; no anti-caking agents)

Black pepper (ground; no additives; non-irradiated)

Drinks:

Water

100% pure apple juice with no preservatives

Rooibos tea

Rooibos tea with vanilla

Coffee (ground; weak/diluted; one cup per day)*

Wine (dry; max one glass per day)*

Supplements:

Probiotics

Calcium

Vitamins B, C and D

Magnesium

Introducing next:

Tomatoes

Herbs

This is only Phase 2 and already my diet is fairly varied (all things considered), so be positive and have hope because it gets easier and easier 🙂

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Day 31: Coffee, wine and coconut tea. The fun has found me.

(Note: I apologise in advance for typos, rambling and general annoyance. The wine testing is already underway).

So it was probably silly of me to try coffee and wine on the same day, after my extremely careful 3 or 4 day testing of EVERYTHING, but today I really did throw caution to the wind.

First of all, the ‘completely natural’ orange and coconut-infused tea that I ordered from Wellness Warehouse (they’re amazing; every time I order something they throw in some deeelicious freebies, like strawberry body lotion or mango body butter) actually has ‘natural flavourings’, which we’re warned about time and again on SCD. I’m sure most other people can handle it fine though.

Anyway, I took a chance and tried a cup, and it made me a little bloated. Plus I didn’t like it very much, so no loss. I’m still loving the rooibos and vanilla tea and the apple juice I ordered, and this time round I bought some pear juice too.

If you have 4 minutes to spare, definitely watch the video below. It’s brilliant, and anyone following a clean eating path will be nodding along the whole time!

Testing, testing, come in coffee

First thing this morning, with my boiled eggs, I had my first cup of coffee in 31 days. I used the Nespresso machine at work so I diluted it with hot water, and it was lovely (if black, sugar-free coffee can be described as ‘lovely’). Plus, I didn’t seem to suffer any ill-effects, like the ‘coffee cramps’ my sister and I often joke about.

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First coffee in 31 days. Even my owl felt perked up!

Then of course, tonight was WINE.

I made it a big deal. Instead of eating supper in front of the TV, I insisted we lay the table, whip out the ‘for guests’ serviettes, light some candles (despite the heatwave) and make it a bit of a ceremony. K had wanted to take me to a roof-top bar near our apartment for my first glass of wine, but as usual my stress kicked in (“When will I cook supper?” “What about traffic?” etc etc – my tendency to stress is going to be my undoing).

So here’s what dinner looked like:

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(In case you’re wondering, that’s a plate full of gem squash, butternut, roasted garlic and minute steak. AND WINE)

And here’s a close-up of my beautiful wine, which was actually a bottle I got for my birthday in December. My friends have good taste. Just FYI, I think a chenin might actually be too sweet for this diet, so next time I’ll go for something drier.

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I’m a little bloated after dinner, wine and bananas for dessert, but nothing major and nothing I can’t handle. I am well aware that wine might well cause me bloating, but it’s a risk I may be willing to take a few times a month. I’ll wear stretchy pants on those days 😉

I’ve had no other bad symptoms today despite the weird tea, coffee and wine, but let’s see how my tummy behaves in the morning. My morning BMs are always a great indication of my overall response to the food I’m eating.

I feel I must just note: if you still have symptoms, or you’re in a flare, DO NOT DRINK. It’s recommended that you only consume alcohol once you’ve been symptom-free for 3 months. I started Asacol in November and have been symptom-free ever since. Alcohol is an irritant and it can be extremely harsh on your gut. Drink with severe caution and if you feel it’s worsening your symptoms, STOP. And always drink in moderation.

What’s the toll of this diet on my relationship?

Today was a hard day for K and I. It was the first time in a month that I’d turned down a social outing (drinks at the Piano Bar) because I needed enough time to cook and exercise. I can no longer just grab a chicken wrap on the way home, after all, and when I’m feeling strong, I want to take advantage and spend a quality 30 minutes with Jillian.

I realised that I’ve been fairly selfish this whole time, making it a lot about me, and K has been so incredibly supportive. Sometimes I need to let go (I’m a TOTAL control freak, and if I can possibly find a way to stress about something, I will). And I need to learn to compromise more. But we also both know that these 90 days will be the hardest – and actually, as they progress, it’ll get easier. I think life will be SO much simpler when I can eat raw fruit and veggies that aren’t cooked to death, and dinner can be cooked in half an hour rather than 2 or 3 hours.

Also, it’s hard because K sees me striving towards a healthier life, but doesn’t really have the inclination to do it herself. She is trying to eat healthier these days, and she’s doing really well, but she feels like she should be doing more to get healthy because I am. But she doesn’t have a serious digestive disease, and she’s making an effort on her own path, so she needs to go easier on herself (without giving up).

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This diet doesn’t just affect you. It affects your partner too. I’ve heard of people who’ve done it as a couple, but I would never subject someone to this diet unless they too had significant health issues. I think it’s enough that K reminds me not to contaminate my SCD counter. She’s been an amazing support and I’m pretty sure I’d have thrown in the towel without her beady eye watching me.

More wine, madam?

Don’t mind if I do! No, I’m just kidding. I’d love another little splash, but I had one glass and I’m going to leave it at that. Too much could skew my results. But ahhhh… okay, maybe another little sip…

The other problem, of course, is that the minute I start drinking wine, I start craving BAD SUGAR. I have a mental block in place now that says I CANNOT HAVE ANY, but I’m not sure how far I want to test that resilience.

I’ll certainly keep testing the wine, and I’ll definitely let you all know how it goes 😉

wine- drunk binge

A cautionary tale

Day 30: 30! 30! 30! 30! 30! 30! 30!

Did you catch that?

I can’t BELIEVE I’m on day 30 already. In fact I just had to go back and double-check all my posts because I really cannot believe that I’m already a third of the way through.

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I’ve gone for a month without coffee, wine, chocolate, cake, cookies, most of the veg I love, pretty much all the fruit I enjoy – basically everything fun. And you know what? The cravings are pretty much gone. Funnily enough, when I do crave something, it’s usually something healthy that I can’t eat right now, but will be able to in the future.

In these 30 days, my perspective has changed

I started SCD because I wanted to get off my meds, and I wanted to put an end to all the symptoms my meds couldn’t control: Bloating, gas, cramps and the constant fear of unpredictable flares.

But having read so many people’s stories, I realise that there’s an even more important reason to be doing this: I don’t want to end up having surgery. Even if you do everything you can (in your power) to control your IBD, it could always rear its ugly head and turn your life upside down. So you really, really owe it to yourself to do everything you can – everything in your power – to try to prevent that. It’s still no guarantee, but it’s the best you’ve got and it’s the most powerful tool in your armoury. USE it.

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Also, I started this as a 90-day challenge. And it still is. But I can’t imagine going back to my old eating habits after this. It doesn’t mean I’ll never eat another morsel of chocolate or bite of sweet potato in my life. But it means that I’m super aware of every little thing that’s going into my body, and I can’t imagine smashing another plastic-filled burger or preservative-laden drink into my face.

Garlic

I gave my body a day to rest yesterday (ie, no new food) after the mushroom onslaught. Tonight I introduced roasted garlic, and it was delicious! I feel okay as yet, so let’s keep hoping for the best.

Discovery!

A year or two back, a friend (aware of my health woes), bought me a couple of fruit and nut bars that were quite nice, but I didn’t pay much attention to them because I didn’t know about SCD at the time. They’re called Nākd bars, and I spotted them again in the ‘aisle of temptation’ at my local supermarket, while I queued to pay.

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Out of curiosity, I picked one up and read the ingredients: Only nuts and dates – they even list the percentages of each – and NO preservatives, no additives, NOTHING extra. So they’re safe for SCD! Well, certain flavours anyway. I can’t wait to get far enough in this diet to be able to eat them.

Beautiful Cape Town

I promised some photos of my city, and here they are. We spent the late afternoon/early evening at Blue Peter Hotel yesterday. It’s one of the most popular summer spots in Cape Town, in an area called Blouberg (‘blue mountain’). Everyone sprawls out on the grass and drinks beer and eats pizza (everyone without IBD that is ;-))

And you’ll spot our gorgeous Table Mountain in the background, sitting pretty over the freeeeezing Atlantic Ocean. Yup, our oceans are nice to look at but challenging to swim in! That’s okay though – it keeps the sharks away. Head to the other side of the peninsula, and you’ll be taking a chance in the warmer water.

Yesterday, as I sat with my friends who were drinking and ordering pizza, I was reminded yet again that it’s about the people and the surroundings, and not the food. And I actually thoroughly enjoyed myself – especially because I knew that if I got really desperate, I had a back-up banana in my bag 😉

Big Bay / Blouberg, Cape Town

Big Bay/Blouberg, Cape Town

The grassy patch outside Blue Peter with the perfect view of the mountain and the sea (but no shade!)

The grassy patch outside Blue Peter with the perfect view of Table Mountain and the sea (but no shade!)

Cape Town's waiting for you :-)

Cape Town’s waiting for you 🙂