Now that I’ve reached my personal goal of 100 days on SCD, I thought I’d share my overall thoughts on this diet with all of you who’ve patiently plodded along with me!
First, check out my 90-day SCD post where I reviewed my first three months on this diet – I won’t bore you by repeating myself here.
The 7 greatest benefits of SCD (for me)
1. Reduction in inflammation. Before I started this diet in January, I’d been on Asacol for about 2 months and I still had inflammation. My most recent blood test in March revealed zero inflammation – a first for me in about 18 months. Sure, the Asacol has probably contributed significantly to that, but I have no doubt that diet helped too.
2. Creating a ‘safe’ food zone. For those of us who know that certain foods can send us into a flare (but aren’t always sure which foods they are), SCD creates a priceless safety net. It not only helps you to establish a safe haven of foods that are kind to your gut, but also a way to test, with great accuracy, which foods knock you off balance. And, thanks to our safety net, we’re able to get back on track when we do veer off course.
3. Identifying food intolerances. This is linked to the point above. Over the course of this diet, I’ve learnt that fibrous vegetables simply don’t agree with me, and I need to find a way to incorporate them into my diet in smaller amounts so that I can reap the benefits without the bloating side effects. I’ve learnt that I can’t tolerate large amounts of whole, raw nuts, but that eggs and meat are fine. At any time I can go into the kitchen and cook a meal that won’t leave me bloated, gassy or in pain.
4. Kicking my sugar habit. Prior to SCD, I could easily eat a slab (or two) of chocolate in a single sitting. I wish I were exaggerating, but no, I lived for sugar. Rooting it out was easier than I had anticipated, and while I had some cravings in the beginning, they quickly faded and I really don’t miss it. I do however add sweetness with honey.
5. It’s taught me to understand what I’m putting into my body. I always considered myself a fairly nutrition-savvy person, au fait with food labels, kilojoules, ingredients and so on. But it’s only since embarking on SCD that I’ve realised just how damaging processed and packaged foods can be, and I take extra care to put pure, natural ingredients into my body.
6. My skin improved. Multiple people commented on my skin looking clearer and ‘better’. This might also have something to do with the 2 litres of water I’m forcing myself to drink every day!
7. It taught me that there’s more to life than food. Sounds ironic, considering that during SCD, 90% of my time was spent thinking about food, preparing food or eating food. But actually, the diet taught me that it’s possible to go to a social gathering and gave a good time even when you’re not stuffing your face with canapes and cake. That was a true revelation for me – the person who has always asked, “Will there be food?”
Drawbacks of SCD
1. Completely unpredictable BMs. I kept a food diary throughout this diet, and yet I still struggle to see a pattern. For the first few weeks, I was completely constipated, and after that, my BMs were yellow! (probably all that carrot and butternut – after all, this is like a baby’s diet, so I guess it makes sense!).
Sometimes, I’d go for a week with the most amazing, predictable, satisfactory BMs – twice a day, well formed and complete. Other times, I’d go for days with nary a peep. And other times still, I’d have diarrhoea – but that was usually the result of something I’d eaten and cleared up within a few hours or over night. Even now, I’ve had a good three or four days, followed by a couple of days of serious constipation, and I have no idea why. I haven’t changed anything obvious in my diet, not even since reaching the 100-day mark. I can however tell you that pure, freshly squeezed apple juice seems to be great for alleviating constipation.
2. Lots of gas. I think this is due to my intolerance to so many types of vegetables, and my tendency to overdo it when I eat them. I suspect the gassiness will improve when I change the way I consume vegetables.
3. It’s difficult to maintain a social life. But not impossible. In the early phases, when I was eating such a limited variety of food and not consuming alcohol, it sucked to go out with friends and order a glass of water and no food. And yes, I’ve also packed my own food for social gatherings – trust me, nobody cares, so don’t be self conscious. As I progressed on SCD, I was able to enjoy one or two SCD-legal restaurant meals, but I didn’t actually mind cutting back on eating out – it saved a ton of money!
4. Lots of prep. I needed to put several hours aside each week for shopping and cooking. Especially at the beginning, it was really labour-intensive, with veggies that needed to be peeled, deseeded and cooked until well dead. I usually did my cooking on a Sunday and made enough for the whole week. Also, if the rest of your household isn’t eating SCD, you may find yourself cooking two different meals every night.
5. Always having to think ahead. Because you can’t just go out and grab some food when you get hungry on SCD, you need to plan ahead and always ensure that you either pre-eat (as I call it) before you go out, take food with you, or carry some bananas in your bag.
6. I had less energy than before. I only really noticed this when I worked out – but then I really noticed it, and it’s been difficult to come to terms with my weaker body. Apparently normal energy levels do return within 6 to 12 months.
I’m struggling to think of other drawbacks so I’m going to stop here. Obviously SCD is not an easy diet to do, otherwise everyone would be doing it and you wouldn’t need me to be sitting here telling you what to expect 🙂 For me, it’s definitely had its ups and downs, with BMs being one of the most frustrating factors, and eating clean (and feeling clean on the inside) being one of the highlights.
As I’ve said before, I’ll be transitioning to a more paleo diet once I return from my trip in Mid-may (I can’t get too hung up on diet while I’m in Kuala Lumpur and Bali, BUT I always eat fairly clean and healthily when I’m in the east). The next part of my diet exploration will definitely be targeting the bugbears of SCD and reducing the bloating and gas. Oh, and I’ve had NO bloody stools this entire time!
If you have any specific questions about anything I haven’t covered, please ask! I’m sure I’ve forgotten something important… 🙂
PS: Yes, I cheated – once, at around day 85 or 86. I had two sugary cocktails and a few handfuls of deep-fried onion. I was filled with remorse and vowed never to do it again. I got back on track immediately and have behaved myself ever since!