Day 72: Practicing portion control

With 18 days to go on my 90-day challenge and 28 days on my personal 100-day challenge, I’m turning my focus now to troubleshooting the elements I covered last week  – all the issues contributing to my bloating. I feel that the discomfort is my own doing and that I have to power to change this.

Here’s what I’m doing:

  • Getting back into exercise. It’s been about a month and today I picked up my dumbbells again. I can’t believe how much muscle strength one loses in a few short weeks. I think the exercise – apart from all the amazing health benefits – is also the best thing for constipation (still a frequent problem).

funny-exercise-on-road

  • Practicing portion control. Not my strong suit, but I’m working on it. K joked that I can have ‘lots of small portions’… but I’m not sure that’s the same thing 😉
  • Cutting back on bloating food. Okay okay, we all know I mean bananas. I’ve made a rule that I can only eat 2 a day – one after lunch (as ‘dessert’) and one as a snack when I get home from work. Honey and yogurt can be my sweet fixes.
Can totes identify

Can totes identify

  • Slowly switching supplements for real food. Now that my diet is expanding, I’m relying less on supplements and more on my food. Fibre is still a big problem: I’m terrified of it because it can aggravate a flare, but too little is not good either. I want to find something I can eat that’ll fill the gap. All suggestions welcome! Also, bear in mind that if a damaged gut can’t absorb nutrients from food, it won’t absorb them from supplements either.

This week’s new food: Broccoli

Tonight I introduced broccoli. Yes, I made an intentional ‘error’ and ate baby gem squash last night and today for lunch, and then introduced broccoli tonight, without waiting for 3 days. This is the first time I haven’t followed the 3-day rule, and I do seem to be okay but my results will be skewed if I react to either of those foods.

130201032294

K’s been nervous for me to try broccoli because she thinks I’ll definitely react to it and she’s the one who has to share a bedroom with me 😛 I’ll let you know how it goes…

 

Day 69-71: A successful SCD weekend away

The weekend away was a (dietary) success! Turns out it wasn’t the nightmare I anticipated, and for the most part, eating was easy. I consumed almost all the food I took with, I didn’t starve, and I even managed to eat my own food at the wedding. I also discovered that I can navigate 2 days away from home with no means to heat my food, no cutlery and a black-tie event to attend. Go me!

Here’s where we spent the weekend:

Morgansvlei Country Estate, Tulbagh

Morgansvlei Country Estate, Tulbagh – absolutely gorgeous, isn’t it?

And here’s what I packed:

20140328_171954

Perfect amount of food for the weekend. Apart from a few boiled eggs, 3 bananas and an avo, I ate it all

Friday night supper

I earmarked the mince ‘bolognaise’ for Friday night, but when we arrived at our guesthouse, we discovered that it indeed had a fridge… but no microwave. K suggested I fill a metal box with boiling water (the box was next to our kettle, holding the teabags and sugar) and then place the tuppaware into it to heat it. That was a disaster, because the metal box leaked and we managed to completely waterlog our room!

Next I attempted filling the bathroom basin with boiling water, putting the tuppaware in, and weighting it down to keep it submerged under the hot water. It didn’t really work and I eventually gave up and ate cold mince.

Saturday breakfast

Thankfully, breakfast on Saturday was much easier: A few boiled eggs washed down with a mug of black coffee from the breakfast room.

My morning coffee on the pier outside the breakfast room.

Enjoying my morning coffee on the pier outside the breakfast room.

Having a Dawson's Creek moment...

Having a Dawson’s Creek moment…

... and just one more, because it's so damn pretty!

… and just one more, because it’s so damn pretty!

Saturday lunch

I kept my lunch quite protein-heavy to avoid bloat (I needed to not be blimpy at the wedding), so I had a few more eggs, a (cold) grilled chicken breast, and several spoons of macadamia nut butter. K’s lunch was a whole lot more exciting: we went to a quirky little outdoor place call the ‘Bush pub’ and she snacked on this droolicious looking chicken basket while the resident chickens clucked away at our feet! (#Awkward)

20140329_120005

Dinner at the wedding

I’d struggled to find the caterers for the wedding, so I filled a tuppaware with chicken and veg, stuck this note to it, and left it in the fridge at the venue:

20140329_134047

20140329_134059

It worked! I chatted to the caterers once the wedding was underway, and when the rest of the table received their main course, I was served my own food. It was cold (WTF?!) but it was mine, it was safe, and I didn’t have to starve. I was also pretty happy that they’d known well enough to seat me right next to the wine 😉 It’s SUCH a treat staying at the actual wedding venue, because we didn’t have to worry about drinking and driving, and simply tottered back to our room after the event.

20140329_191349

I mostly avoided bananas yesterday as I didn’t want to risk ballooning in my tight little dress, but I gulped several down when we got back to our room afterwards!

K & I in our wedding rags

K & I in our wedding rags

Breakfast today

More boiled eggs, more coffee, and then home!

I must say, it was easier than I anticipated… but messier. After we drenched our room on Friday night in our failed attempt to heat the mince, everything was soggy and damp for the rest of the time we were there. Also, there was nowhere to clean my used tuppaware, and nothing to clean it with, so I had to make do with the bathroom sink and some handsoap. I wrapped all my semi-clean containers in brown bags and had to wash them when we got home today (eew).

Also, there was no cutlery besides teaspoons in our room, so I had to swindle a knife and fork from the group dinner on Friday night! (I gave them back of course).

My best food tip for a weekend away

All in all, diet-wise, this weekend was very do-able. I attribute this mostly to the fact that I took a lot of food that I could eat on its own, and without heating or preparing, such as boiled eggs, ripe avo, ripe bananas, nut butter. It definitely helped that we had a fridge in our room too. All you need to do, really, is plan ahead and plan for the worst (ie: no fridge, no microwave, etc) and you’ll be fine.

Today’s food

We got home and I had to spend about 4 hours in the kitchen prepping my food for this week, as well as a Thai chicken and coconut soup for K. I made all my usual veg, and also had a brainwave that I could roast my butternut instead of peeling, chopping, de-seeding and boiling, which is such a mission. I roasted it instead and it turned out beautifully! I’ll try it tomorrow.

20140330_160757

I also, for some reason, bought some baby gem squash earlier this week. I think it’s because our local supermarket was out of everything, and for some reason it seemed like a good idea. I realised today that you can really peel or de-seed it… and then I thought, what the hell? For more than 2 months I’ve avoided all skins and seeds; let’s see if my body can handle it. So I cooked them up and had a few of them with my dinner – skins, seeds and all! So far I feel okay. They’re very similar in taste and consistency to zucchini actually.

Adult gems and baby gems

Grown-up gems and baby gems

I also made a fresh batch of yoghurt and I PROMISE I will share the recipe ASAP. It’s been on my mind – I haven’t forgotten, I just haven’t had a chance!

I hope you all had a great weekend, and that your diets are going well. Amazing how such a basic thing can totally consume your life!

 

Day 68: Packing SCD food for a weekend away

Tomorrow, K and I are heading to Tulbagh for a wedding. It’s about an hour and a half’s drive from Cape Town, and we’ll be there until Sunday. I’ve been dreading it not only because I’m not particularly partial to protracted periods of socialising (especially with people I don’t know so well), but also because of the food issue.

It’s one thing to pack food for a weekend away; quite another to pack for a wedding, where the food is supposed to be one of the focal points. I mean, of all the weddings you’ve been to, what do you remember the most? For me, it really is usually the food.

The way I see it, I have three options:

  • Give the caterers a plate of my own food and ask them to serve it when everyone else receives their main course.
  • Speak to the caterers in advance (one of the benefits of arriving at the venue the day before) and find out if they can prepare something for me.
  • Eat prior to the wedding and avoid food at the actual event. But a wedding takes HOURS and I don’t know if I’ll be able to hold out for that long, especially if I’m drinking. I’d hate to get hangry, which is a real possibility when I’m hungry.

hangry

Either way, I’m going to plan for each of these eventualities as I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing. Because we’ll be there from tomorrow night until Sunday mid-morning, I need to pack food for:

  • 2 dinners
  • 2 breakfasts
  • 1 lunch

I’ve planned what I’m taking and I know we’ll have a fridge in our room. I’ve also decided not to worry too much about my beef with bananas this weekend because I really will need to rely on them. So here’s what I’ll be packing:

  • 8 x boiled eggs – great for breakfast on both days, and for snacks
  • 2 pre-grilled chicken breasts
  • 1 portion of venison mince cooked with veg and tomato paste
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 large tuppaware of mixed vegetable (cauliflower, butternut, green beans)
  • My own tomato sauce (made from tomatoes, garlic and onion)
  • Fresh coriander
  • 1.2kg box of small ripe bananas
  • Jar of macadamia nut butter

I think that this should cover it for the time that I’m away. Plus, the guesthouse we’re staying at serves breakfast, so I’m sure I could get some more eggs (cooked plainly) if need be. I’ll try to remember to take a photo of my bounty tomorrow when I pack it all up 🙂

bananas

What I’m taking to this weekend’s destination wedding. And a dress.

What’s that fishy taste?

Last night, and again tonight, I started experiencing a fishy-tasting reflux in my mouth, and couldn’t work out what it was – I mean, I haven’t eaten any fish and the only new thing I’ve introduced is macadamia nut butter. I’ve heard of stale pumpkin seeds smelling fishy, but not nuts!

Cat-and-Fish

FINALLY tonight I realised that it’s the omega-3 capsules I’m taking. I started them about a week ago. I honestly can’t tell if they’re making any noticeable different to my health, and that, combined with this disgusting after taste, is enough to convince me to give them up once this batch is done.

All I can say now is – TGIF! Even though it’s not the weekend I’d have planned, it’s still a WEEKEND (or as I like to think of this one – a ‘wEEKend’). Do you have any big plans?

funny weekend

Day 67: Observations part 2 – Besides food, what else can cause bloating?

Yesterday I spoke a lot about bloating and the food that I think is causing my biggest problems.

Today,  I didn’t eat ANY bananas! I know! Amazing! I did experience some bloating and also some cramps after a lunch of vegetables and avo, which I suspect will require further investigation. But I also had a realisation about other factors that could be causing my bloating:

1. Eating too much. I’ve never been one for moderate portions, which is probably what helped get me into this predicament in the first place! Whether I’m eating a bowl of chips or a bowl of broccoli, I eat a lot of it. I’ve always said that I’m missing the ‘fullness indicator’ and that I could just keep eating and eating and eating without stopping until I burst like a cartoon character. Anyone else have this talent problem?

Basically me at every meal, minus the roll

Basically me at every meal, minus the bread

The average adult stomach is roughly the size of a clenched fist and can stretch to fit about a litre’s worth of food in it. I like to take that as a personal challenge and try to pack in around 3kg at every meal. And then I’m surprised when my belly blows up to the size of the Times Square ball.

2. Eating too fast. I’ve never had any reason to eat my food like a prison inmate about to have it snatched away. My parents always cooked plenty of food and there was always enough for seconds and thirds… for us and the neighbours. My dad also eats super fast, and in fact, when I go out to eat with other people, I have to consciously slow myself down so as not to embarrass myself. Thank goodness K and I seem to keep the same pace!

3. Not exercising. In Jan and Feb, the first two official months on the job (prior I was freelancing for the same company), I was able to leave work at about 4.45 each day, and be home by 5.30. I’d exercise until 6, shower and then make supper, with plenty of time to spare. When we hit a crisis at work about three weeks ago, I found myself easily staying at the office until 6 or even 7, getting home after dark and then still having to cook supper. I simply haven’t had the time to work out, and I know it’s so bad for me. Could this be contributing to the bloat?

funny-exercise

4. What I’m drinking. For the first 19 days on this diet, I drank only water. For the first 30, I drank no coffee or booze. Now, I still drink my 2l of water a day – but I also have a glass of wine most days, and one to two cups of coffee. There’s no doubt that drinks can have just as big an impact on your gut as food, and it’s careless to think they don’t.

funny-alcohol-drinks

5. Stress. When our work crisis hit, our stress levels shot right up. Some days, my colleagues were running to the bathroom with diarrhoea – and they don’t have IBD! I felt a gnawing nausea for days on end, and I was constantly in a state of high-strung anxiety. I’ve no doubt that this not only aggravated my gut, but also contributed to my bloating.

So what’s the next step?

Now that I’ve got a more holistic picture, so to speak, of the root causes of my bloating, I can start to fix the problem (if I can commit to it). It’s almost like working retroactively, going back and fixing what I’ve broken. Now that the bananas are gone, I know I should take a break from booze and coffee too, and keep working backwards like that until I am able to identify the food causes of the bloating – and then of course I need to address the non-food causes too.

I’ve just had dinner and I tried not to overeat. I had yogurt for ‘dessert’, with honey, because I’ve already cut out bananas today and I felt I deserved it!

Ugh, damn bloating. I feel like a stuck record. Imagine how AMAZING life would be without bloat!

Oh, to be a cat and be so unconcerned about bloating!

Oh, to be a cat and be so unconcerned about bloating!

Day 66: Important observations about SCD so far

I’ve been on this diet for 66 days, and even though it’s not a massive amount of time, it’s long enough to have realised that my progress has fallen into two distinct categories:

  • Extremely strict
  • Experimental (within the bounds of legal, stage-appropriate SCD foods)

I haven’t once knowingly cheated on this diet and I’ve stuck to the 3-day rule (at times 4 days) since the start. But I’ve also become less fanatically strict and terrified of introducing new foods. Maybe it’s manifesting more psychologically than physically, because I’m not running around shoving random bits of food into my mouth. But it does mean that one big problem has crept in: Bloating.

Can totally relate

Can totally relate

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it because when I’m healthy and not in an active flare, the worst symptom I have is bloating, which also causes pain and that lovely, totally-not-embarrassing ‘talking’ that most often happens when I’m sitting in an echoey boardroom with several of my bosses, a handful of clients and the perfectly preened magazine editor.

Yet here I am, 66 days in, experiencing bloating most days. So, below is what I have deduced about my particular reaction to foods on SCD. As always, bear in mind that everyone tolerates food differently.

1. Bananas cause me significant bloating. I’ve known this since day 4 or 5 when I introduced them, and you’ve known it too because I haven’t shut up about it. I try to eat fewer but usually I fail because…

2. I’m a snacker which makes SCD REALLY hard. Who wants to snack on a dry meatball or a cup of carrot puree? So I snack on bananas. All. The. Time. And then for dessert I have banana ‘ice cream’. I do in fact always have prepared vegetables and ripe avos in the fridge, but bananas are also easy to eat on the go or take with to work, social occasions, movies, etc.

wnd_40b710c29b13cfe52ad08b4d98d3e865

3.  Other things besides banana make me bloated. What are they? I’m not sure. Because in this experiment that is the SCD, you need to use your own body as the control, and I’ve often failed to do that effectively. You need to feel good and bloat-free before introducing new foods, and while I’ve done that to some extent, I have also compromised my results by continuing to eat bananas while testing other foods.

This means I’ve often experienced bloating while testing, but I’ve always blamed it on bananas. However, I’m now noticing that I can eat other foods (ie: meals of meat, assorted vegetables and avo) and end up bloated – and because of the muddied test results, I can’t pinpoint the culprit.

4. You have to introduce SCD yogurt CAREFULLY. As good as it can be for you, dairy-free SCD yogurt is made up of not one but a number of ingredients – and some of these (most notably nut milk and honey) can be problematic.

Nuts, even when blanched, blended, strained and squeezed into milk, can aggravate a sensitive gut, which is why they shouldn’t be introduced until 3 months on this diet (or 3 months symptom-free, which I reached in about February). Honey is also tolerated by some but not by others, and both nuts and honey are considered potentially ‘problematic’ foods for people on SCD.

diet

5. Nut milks and honey are probably adding to my bloating. They’ve made a fairly recent but regular appearance in my diet in the form of my yoghurt, and since their debut I’ve come to really enjoy them. Is the benefit of the probiotics outweighing the bloat? I can’t honestly tell you because while my BMs are satisfactory and quite regular, I haven’t noticed a marked difference since introducing the yogurt. But I do love the sweetness of they honey and yogurt is such a perfect after-dinner treat.

6. I felt my best during intro and phase 1, but my BMs were terrible. Swings and roundabouts? Maybe, but there must be more to it than that. There must be more that I can do to control my symptoms so that I can heal and enjoy a varied diet without bloat.  This means that I probably need to go back to the drawing board – or at the very least, stick to meat and veg for a few days and see if it helps.

7. This diet is about more than mindlessly following the phases. It only works if you listen to your body and respect your symptoms, and if you actively work to manage them. I haven’t always done that. I haven’t always been fully committed to being symptom free as much as I’ve been committed to eating legally and according to the phases. In other words…

8. Just because a food is SCD-legal and allowed in the phase you’re on, doesn’t mean it works for you. I found out that mushrooms don’t agree with me so I avoid them. But I’ve ignored the ill-effects of other foods and now I have this major bloat problem which is really a huge tangled mess. You have to be actively involved in really feeling your symptoms, identifying what’s causing them and eradicating problem foods from your diet – if only temporarily. Mindless eating is not going to cure you, even if you’re eating SCD legal foods.

So those are my observations for now. On this diet, I am definitely my biggest ally and also my worst enemy. It’s also why I haven’t yet opened my new jar of macadamia nut butter: The cashew butter was going brilliantly until, after 3 days, I caved and ate the remainder (about half of it) with a spoon straight out of the jar.

willpower

My goal for the coming days: WILLPOWER. I’ve already made so many sacrifices that I can’t allow these little weaknesses to trip me up now. Now to just find the motivation to do better…

willpower-funny-cartoon3-216x300

 

Day 65: 3 awesome things today

My latest batch of SCD yoghurt is complete and it’s pretty darn perfect! It has the gloopy consistency of the real shop-bought variety, but without all those pesky bad things added to it. It’s cashew milk-based and it tastes delicious, especially with an added dash of honey.

I’ll post pictures and the full recipe later this week. It was definitely a case of ‘third time lucky’ for me, and now that I’ve got the basics right, I can play around with ingredients and flavours. SO EXCITING!

How does this fit into the phases? Well honey is allowed after 30 days, and most nut milks can be added in phase 3, where I am now.

As for the 2 other awesome things:

2. Bananas and eggs – mixed!  I suddenly remembered about SCD pancakes made from bananas and eggs, and attempted to make a batch. They were a disaster – didn’t solidify and simply couldn’t be flipped. So rather than waste my mixture of two large bananas and one egg, I turned it into a scramble. It looked hideous but it tasted delicious! A filling, healthy breakfast or snack that I highly recommed.

pancake4

Mix. Scramble in pan (oil optional). Be brave. Dig in. Fall in love.

3. Better BMs: For me, nothing has been as up and down on this diet as my BMs. The first few weeks were constipation central, and they’re still pretty unpredictable. But the past few days have treated me kindly, with regular (for me) BMs and feeling like I’m properly empty.

Bonus: Veep & other series: If you’ve been hit by a flare or, like me, simply needed two straight days on the couch to recover from life, you’re probably in need of a fresh batch of series. I discovered Veep this weekend, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, which is a political comedy and brilliantly written. It also stars Tony Hale (Buster from Arrested Development) whom I love. And come on, Arrested Development is just the BEST.

veep2

‘Glasses are like wheelchairs for the eyes.’

48bddd3c05c0fcc2d98b1cd56ba7328d_width_600x

Also stumbled upon a new series called Resurrection – only two episodes out so far, and it’s quite eerie, but I think it’ll be good. We’re also loving the new Big Bang Theory and Modern Family, and as always we’re slaves to Grey’s, even though every series inevitably leaves us gutted. I tell K that the stress of watching Grey’s is bad for my colitis.

It’s nice to stop talking, well, shit every now and then 😉 Series recommendations, anyone? 🙂

 

Day 64: Crying into my cauliflower

Positive thinking is an essential ingredient of this diet. Positive thinking, willpower, psychological commitment, faith in your ability… basically, superhuman mental strength. But even the superhuman need a break now and then, and on this diet, your mental tenacity is bound to take a hit from time to time.

Tonight was my night. I’d been in the kitchen for hours, making my food for the week, as well as my next batch of yogurt. I was irritable and on top of it all, I still had to make our roast for dinner after I’d finished cooking everything else. Without thinking, I grabbed a glass bowl that had just been in the microwave, and it was so hot that I dropped it and it smashed everywhere.

There was glass in K’s food and there was glass in my big batch of freshly-cooked cauliflower. It was all over the counter, the floor and between my fingers. So I hurled the food into the bin and I had a GOOD sob. Let me tell you, a GREAT one. It put the Oprah ugly cry to shame.

Tonight's selfie

Today’s selfie

K of course ran to my aid and tried to help, but I just wailed at her about how I can’t stop breaking things and I’m always the one making mistakes in this relationship and I’m always screwing up and I’m so over cooking and I’m so tired of all the prep and IJUSTCAN’TANYMORE. The more she tried to reassure me with kind words and make me feel better with hugs, the more I insisted I was a failure. She laughed a little as I decorated her T-shirt with tears and snot, because it really was so ludicrous. But that only made me more indignant and hate the cauliflower and the microwave and the diet AND THE WORLD even more.

Anyway, I sobbed and snotted my way through the clean-up after chasing K out of the kitchen when she tried to help, and an hour later, new food had been cooked and we were enjoying our Sunday roast. That was a couple of hours ago and I feel fine now, my little tantrum a distant memory. I did, admittedly, feel like a crazy person when it happened – and even now as I feel so calm!

How I felt today

How I felt today

This is not a frequent occurrence for me. Of the 64 days on this diet, I can count on one hand the number of days my resolve has wobbled – with fingers to spare. I’ve felt committed, positive, strong and, more importantly, stronger the the sum of this diet’s parts. Which obviously is the only way to do this diet successfully.

But every now and then, things do feel overwhelming. It can be extremely frustrating to spend hours in the kitchen, just to eat the same food day in and day out, and to feel like your life revolves around what you’re putting into your mouth. It’s frustrating to have to plan your days and your life around what you can and – more to the point – can’t eat.

It’s also extremely frustrating to not be able to satisfy your cravings with a piece of cake or a slab of chocolate. Plus, you’re constantly planning ahead so that you don’t end up stranded without food. There’s no quick ‘running into the shop’ to grab a snack when you’re hungry – and gosh, if you have a family, this must be a million times harder, whether or not they’re doing the diet too. In fact, I really can’t complain because I have it pretty easy.

Anyway, the point that I’m trying to make is that even when you put your mind to it and think positively, there will be days that suck and there will be some or other insignificant mishap that pushes you over the edge and makes you feel like a raving loon.

Food has such a major impact on our mental state, that this kind of reaction from time to time is an inevitability. Go easy on yourself. Recognise that it’s a symptom of an intensive healing process, and move past it. Don’t let it become the norm, but realise that it’s all part of it. Perhaps just warn your family and significant others that this might happen… 😉

77d026ad8fc153f5c926e6235bf86925