Guilt: the worst thing you can eat on your diet

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I saw this quote today and it almost made me cry with relief. Not because I didn’t know this – I suppose somewhere deep down, buried beneath the constant guilt and occasional self-loathing and hidden behind the ‘how could you’s, I did – but because sometimes, you need to hear it from someone else.

For me, cheating is a highly charged, highly emotional issue that can either cause a horrible domino effect (more and more cheating until I’m nauseous or in pain) or a quick, instantly regretted decision that I beat myself up about for hours or even days afterwards.

It’s okay to cheat. It really is. Especially when you’re trying so hard most of the time, and particularly if you learn from it. Endlessly berating yourself for it is far more damaging.

Cheating shouldn’t be a regular thing, though I can’t tell you how much or how little to cheat. Only you know what your body can handle. What I am pretty sure of, even though I’m not a doctor or psychologist or any kind of medical professional, is that the constant guilt and self-castigation must surely be more harmful to your body. You know how guilt is often described as ‘eating away’ at a person? I just imagine that guilt in my gut, eating away at the healthy lining I’ve worked so hard to build up, and I realise that it’s probably far more damaging to my health than the few blocks of chocolate I just ate.

Try your best with your diet and know your cheating ‘limits’. You’ll break them sometimes, but you need to forgive yourself. A healthy mind is SUCH a big part of a healthy body, and without it your body will constantly be fighting for health.

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7 Good tips for when you’ve cheated bad

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K and I just got back from a weekend in the Cape Winelands, and boy was it awesome! We packed up the car and headed off with our good friends Gin and Tonic on Friday afternoon, bundled up against the chilly Stellenbosch weather and ready for some great food and wine.

See, Sellenbosch is one South Africa’s top wine-producing regions, and it’s also a famous university town where K studied. I knew this weekend was going to mean a little indulgence, but I had no idea how far I’d fall from the wagon.

My cheating confession

Between our pub crawl on Friday, Bastille Day celebrations in Franschhoek yesterday (Franschhoek – the ‘French Corner’ – being another renowned wine-producing area) and the fresh food fairs, wine farms, restaurants, fast food joints and craft markets we trawled, my GI system experienced an onslaught bar (n)one.

NOT the kind of sheep you should be eating on SCD/AIP

NOT the kind of sheep you should be eating on SCD/AIP

Most of my cheating took the form of copious amounts of booze – the ‘not allowed’ kinds like Jagermeister, sparkling and sweet wines, energy drinks (to make Jagerbombs – Jagerbombs!!) and tequila (though I think tequila is actually ‘legal’, as it’s made from cacti). But there was also nightshade veg (tomatoes at breakfast and lunch, and some fries), as well as an embarrassingly large amount of chocolate, including a chocolate sheep. In fact, I pretty much ‘forgot’ that tomatoes were nightshades. Did I leave my AIP brain at home?? It felt like it.

A small selection of the booze we bought...

A small selection of the booze we bought…

... and consumed this weekend

… and consumed this weekend

My ‘tips’ for cheating

This weekend was a PROPER cheat. Two days of diet debauchery. I do NOT recommend you EVER cheat as severely as this. But, if you do go hurtling off the wagon head-first into a pile of cheese, here are a few tips that I can share, purely from my experience.

1. Avoid gluten, even when cheating. My nutritionalist explained to me that gluten can take up to six months to leave your system altogether. One cheat is NOT worth undoing all that work. Have a gluten-free pizza or pasta, or have cheese or any chocolate that doesn’t contain gluten. There are ‘safe’ cheat foods and naughtier cheat foods, and then there are the cheat foods that can set you back months in your healing. Try not to have those.

2. Realise that cheating is inevitable. I cheat about once every two months or so. That’s six times a year. It’s not great, it’s not something I’m proud of, and it’s something I’m hoping will continue to decline in frequency over time. But it’s a FAR cry from where I was, and I’m making progress and trying my best. Just forgive yourself and move on (but don’t forget! And don’t eat gluten!).

3. Prepare for pain. There’s a reason you’re on the diet you’re on. Today, doubled over in pain as we drove home from Stellenbosch, I remembered just how great it feels to eat clean. Although the pain sucks, it’s also an effective way to keep the cheating to a minimum. Just remember how shit, literally, it feels to cheat. Remember this pain, nausea and desire to curl up and die.

4. Recognise when you’re in a ‘high risk’ situation. For me, it’s when my friends are buying rounds of drinks and the wine is flowing. I realise I can’t be in these kinds of situations without cheating, so I need to avoid them or keep them to an absolute minimum. It also helps to have people around you – for me, it’s K – who will remind you about your diet and castigate you for cheating. It sounds horrible, but it’s necessary and it works!

5. Stop as soon as possible. Don’t think that just because you cheated on Friday night means you should just write off the whole weekend and keep cheating until Monday – because come Monday, you’ll have another excuse to keep cheating until Friday – and hey, then it’s the weekend again! Cheat, then stop, or you never will.

6. Cleanse. Don’t stop your meds or your supplements. Don’t stop drinking two litres of water a day. Treat your body as if it’s flaring, because that’s probably how it’s feeling – sore, bloated, gassy and uncomfortable. It’s already had to do enough work processing the bad stuff, so give it a break and go back to basics. Stick to plain veggies, plain cooked meat, eggs (if you can tolerate them) and bananas. Even if you can tolerate dairy, it may be wise to cut it out for a bit – it’s known to aggravate a sensitive stomach. Also avoid coffee, alcohol and fruit juices, and stick with herbal teas and broths. You know what your body likes when it’s feeling bad, so feed it those things only.

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7. Don’t stress. You screwed up and you’ve already done damage to your body. Stressing about it will only make it worse – just think about how your stomach feels when you’re in a state of tension and anxiety. Stress will only exacerbate your symptoms and prolong your healing. Be kind to yourself.

Do you have any other tips for cheating? Or perhaps any tips to help me stop cheating?? As you can see, I could really use all the help I can get!

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Autoimmune paleo vs SCD: How I’m feeling after 3 weeks

Excellent advice - if I could follow it!

Excellent advice – if I could follow it!

It’s been just over three weeks since my nutritionalist recommended I start following the autoimmune paleo (AIP) protocol, and I’ve noticed many differences between this diet and SCD – some great, some not so great.

As a side-note, I’ve discovered through my research that you are only supposed to follow the AIP diet for 30 to 60 days. My nutritionalist hasn’t discussed this with me, but it’s certainly something I’ll chat to her about next week when I see her. If it’s only 30 days, I can definitely put my back into it a lot more than I have been! (keep reading to see how I’ve cheated…).

Here’s how I’m faring after three weeks on AIP.

The food

After SCD, you’d think I’d be pretty accustomed to cutting food out of my diet. However, the advantage of SCD was knowing that every few days, I was adding to my diet, so I always had new foods to look forward to (bad gut reactions notwithstanding).

After 100 days on SCD (which I now realise is much too short), I had re-introduced all legal foods into my diet. But on AIP, I’ve had to cut many of them out again: the nightshades (peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, potato, etc), nuts, many spices and certain seeds. I must admit that a diet void of tomatoes, spices and nuts is very, very hard. Nuts are an amazing snack, and tomatoes are used in almost everything. I don’t mind cutting out spices so much, but it makes it exceptionally hard for others to cook for me.

I’ve been creating a lot of my own meals and really enjoying them, but I’m a nightmare when it comes to eating out. Like on SCD, I often take my own food with me. My nutritionalist has said that if I must cheat, I can have some gluten-free pizza or pasta, which I’ve done once (and I gobbled that pizza down in about 5 minutes flat!).

I eat a lot of eggs, meat, vegetables and fruit. I’m trying not to eat so many dates and bananas, because they’re so loaded with sugar. I’m still wrapping my head around making my meals more protein-heavy because I usually bulk up with veg.

BMs

Prior to seeing the nutritionalist, the only thing regular about my BMs was constipation. This was an especially frequent complaint during my 100 SCD days. However, when my colon found out that I was about to pay thousands of rands to a nutritionalist for appointments, tests and pills, my BMs (miraculously) started normalising, about a day or two before my first appointment.

Since then, I’ve had very good daily BMs – often twice, three times or even four times a day. Generally, they’re a 3 or 4 on the Bristol chart, which is incredible for me, because usually when I’m this regular, I’m at about a 7!

I do also attribute these improved BMs to the fact that I’m eating more. I seem to be consuming significantly more food than I did during the early phases of SCD, and I definitely think that makes a difference (as a note, I also experienced more frequent and regular BMs when I was overseas in May, which I too attributed to a more substantial and lenient diet).

Bloating

Oh, bloat, my old frenemy. Sometimes I think that the only way to stop getting bloated would be to not eat at all – even a glass of water can cause my stomach to blow up like a balloon. I think that one day, when they lower me into the ground, I will be the first corpse to be buried with a bloated stomach.

So clearly, I’m bloated very often, and I do get gassy from time to time, the latter of which I usually attribute to cauliflower! Interesting, my nutritionalist explained that when a person suffers from leaky gut (which she suspects I do), it’s not necessarily that a specific food – like cauliflower or tomatoes or cheese – causes bloating, but that the overall poor state of your gut causes a bloating reaction at random. This has been quite a revelation for me, and it would explain why I sometimes get bloated after eating eggs, or bananas, or meat, and other times I don’t.

Cheating

I’ve tried to be as fastidious as possible with this diet, but I have knowingly cheated on a couple of occasions. I have eaten food that was seasoned with potentially ‘illegal’ seasonings; I have had a bite or two of nightshades (ie, a pimento-stuffed olive) and I have, on one occasion, eaten raw chocolate. I have also, on several occasions, eaten nuts. This is proving to be my Achilles heel! I have not cut coffee or alcohol out of my diet.

However, I’ve only recently discovered that this diet is only supposed to be short-term. If that is the case, I definitely would like to start from scratch and do it 110% perfectly, like I did SCD.

Overall

It’s still very early days so I’m definitely not in a position to make a fully-formed opinion of autoimmune paleo. What I’d say is that I love the fact that my BMs have improved so markedly – no one likes feeling like an over-stuffed rubbish bin.

It’s difficult to snack without breaking the rules (I’m looking at you, nuts) or relying purely on sugar-laded foods. And it’s hard to cook full meals without so many ingredients I’ve come to rely upon. But I do love how healthy, clean and surprisingly tasty my meals are.

If I’m honest, I’m so over it. I’m so over restricting what I eat all the time – and, more than that, having to pay so bloody much for foods that are now considered ‘cool’ to eat (thank you, hipsters-who-aren’t-really-gluten-intolerant. Really, thank you). I’ve never been a particularly unhealthy eater and even if I could eat anything I liked, I wouldn’t be shoving McDonald’s burgers down my gullet every day. But being so restrictive is making me dream about chocolate all the time. And say what you will – not even the most delicious clean treat will ever taste like Nutella cheesecake.

The other thing that’s hard is knowing that  I can eat whatever the hell I like and my Asacol takes care of it. Of course, I don’t want to stay on Asacol forever, which is why the clean eating is essential. But it really is hard when you have this amazing suit of armour for your colon, and you know that you could consume a three-ton cake made purely out of butter, gluten and Nutella and your body would process it like it was nothing, because of the Asacol.

Obviously, I don’t want to put that kind of food into my body, but the point is that it’s hard to keep depriving yourself of Kit Kats when the drugs make you feel completely normal and healthy, regardless of what you eat. It’s all about willpower for me, because unlike other people who have immediate, noticeable and unpleasant reactions to the foods they shouldn’t eat, I just have to trust that all these restrictions are going to help me heal.

Don’t worry, I’m sticking with it! And I’m going to keep reporting back. I’ve still got some ways to go with my nutritionalist, and I definitely want to see whether this diet could put me on a path to an Asacol-free existence.

All the things I ate in Bali and Malaysia (Part 2): Good meals gone bad!

As I said in my previous post, I stuck as much as possible to SCD/paleo for the first week of my trip. But during the second week, things deteriorated a little!

Fortunately, my week of indiscriminate indulgence resulted in nothing more than a little gained weight and a lot of guilt – no dodgy BMs, no pain, no cramps, no discomfort, no bleeding. In fact, I had pretty perfect BMs but I’m trying not to equate the two!  As I said, I think the fact that I was suuuuuper relaxed and blissed out contributed to my belly loving me while I was on holiday.

After starting off with amazingly healthy fresh meals like this:

Healthy chicken salad and nasi goreng on the balcony of our bungalow in Bangalan, Bali

Healthy chicken salad and nasi goreng on the balcony of our bungalow in Bangalan, Bali

… my diet rapidly deteriorated as I decided to enjoy ALL THE THINGS I’d been missing out on for so long. Plus, how would I ever know how Domino’s Pizza tasted if I didn’t try it in Malaysia?? We don’t have it in South Africa! (the answer: super spicy but otherwise quite dry and tasteless).

Here are some of the naughtier things I shovelled into my face in Bali and Malaysia:

My first Starbucks - I WAS THIS EXCITED!

My first Starbucks – I WAS THIS EXCITED! MY NAME WAS ON THE CUP!

I chose the Americano with vanilla flavouring, which was a relatively okay-ISH compromise... so I had to throw in a cookie of course. K had the new caramel ribbon which tasted like calories and flares.

I chose the Americano with vanilla flavouring, which was a relatively okay-ISH choice… so of course I had to throw in a cookie. K had the new caramel ribbon – a sugar, fat and lactose bomb that tasted like calories and flares.

A selection of Chinese fare at Melaka, Malaysia, including rice balls, bean sprouts, pork and miso soup with dumplings. It's not that the ingredients themselves were bad, but that they were super oily and salty, and gave me the only discomfort I experienced during my trip.

A selection of Chinese food at Melaka, Malaysia, including rice balls, bean sprouts, sweet and sour pork covered in whole, tiny dried/fried anchovies (for real!), and miso soup with dumplings. This resulted in the only discomfort I experienced during my trip.

The 'Honeymoon' cocktail at the West Bali Nature Reserve...

The ‘Honeymoon’ cocktail at the West Bali Nature Reserve…

...Tasted like more and maxed credit cards. Drinks in the East don't come cheap!

…Tasted like more and maxed credit cards. Drinks in the East don’t come cheap!

PIZZA! After a million months of no pizza! And it was Domino's!

PIZZA! After a million months of no pizza! And it was Domino’s!

Seriously guys, look how small it is. The size of my hand. I don't know what that Diet Pepsi is doing there. I was just holding it for a friend.

Seriously guys, look how small it is. The size of my hand! I don’t know what that Diet Pepsi is doing there. I was just holding it for a friend.

Tasting durian ice cream. Ice cream. And durian. Please go and Google durian. Right after this photo - ONE lick - I left it on the pavement.

Tasting durian ice cream with the mom-in-law. Ice cream. And durian. Please go and Google durian. Right after this photo  I left it on the pavement.

Did you Google durian? Did you really? I’m not sure you did. Here, I did it for you. THE MOST VILE THING ON THE PLANET THAT SOME PEOPLE LOVE. Did you know it’s illegal to eat it in certain public places and on public transport because of the smell? There are signs up everywhere! K describes it as rotting, sweet garlic, which is a pretty accurate description of the taste.

Anyway, there were a lot more things that I didn’t photograph, like the Toblerone I ate that kinda signaled the beginning of the end; the cashew dairy milk chocolate; the Hard Rock breakfast gorge-fest, and numerous, numerous cocktails. I did avoid all cream and most dairy though – and when I asked one bartender not to add whipped cream to my pina colada, he simply added more booze!

It’s been almost two weeks since we got back home and my eating has completely returned to normal. I’m eating more cashews than I’d like to admit, but other than that, it’s fruit, veg, meat and eggs – no sugar, no dairy, no grain, and all totally healthy and natural.

The indulgence was fun – and delicious – but one week was enough 🙂