How your body feels after eating healthy food vs unhealthy food: A comparison of physical & psychological symptoms

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This morning as I arrived at work, our new boss placed a fresh, warm, just-out-of-the-oven croissant on each of our desks. My resistance didn’t crumble. It crashed in a single almighty explosion at my feet, sending shards of flaky, buttery pastry everywhere. The croissant didn’t make it (any further than my mouth).

The guilt was immediate – but what surprised me was that the physical symptoms set in almost as quickly. I don’t usually react so quickly to refined carbs and dairy, but today I did – and it got me thinking about how (great) I feel when I eat healthily, and how (bad) I feel when I don’t. I also immediately wanted – no, CRAVED – more. MOOOOOOORE!!! In fact I could easily have swallowed another three or four pastries without blinking. Possibly five. Definitely five.

After switching to a clean or healing diet, it’s easy to forget just how bad those ‘bad’ foods can make you feel. Which isn’t exactly helpful, because it makes it all too easy to go back down that sparkling, sugar-paved road. So, for my edification (and yours, if you need it), here’s a comparison of today’s croissant breakfast versus what I usually eat, and how my body feels after consuming each.

Cheat breakfast: Butter croissant

How I feel/physical symptoms after eating:

  • Instant headache that lasted several hours
  • Immediate craving for more junk food/sugar
  • Not satisfied/satiated
  • ‘Popping’ eyes, like my eyes were really wide open and everything was very bright (this usually happens when I have too much sugar)
  • Gurgling stomach (probably a reaction to lactose)
  • Hungry soon after
  • Guilty

Regular breakfast: Boiled egg on gluten-free seed toast 

How I feel/physical symptoms after eating

  • Immediately satisfied after eating
  • No cravings afterwards
  • Full/satiated
  • Not hungry for 3 to 4 hours afterwards
  • Not guilty

While the differences are vast, they’re probably not going to surprise you. But in the same way that keeping a food journal can alert you to issues that you may not have been aware of, writing down these differences is a great way to remind myself of just how bad bad food can make me feel.

If I’m 100% honest, every day is a battle between the foods that I should eat and those I shouldn’t. I find it really, really hard to stay on track, and that little ‘just eat it – go on, it’s not going to hurt you’ voice never, ever stops. Ever. At least, by writing out this list, I can show that little voice that YES, it is going to hurt me – here’s the proof! (I guarantee that won’t shut it up though. It’ll probably pause for moment, regroup its thoughts and then say, ‘Yeeees, but how bad will it really be? What’s a little headache between friends? A little bloating? You own a baggy shirt, don’t you?’).

I shouldn’t have cheated today but at least I gained something from the experience apart from just a headache, a sugar rush and a large serving of guilt. A little insight never hurts, after all.

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What can you do with all that gluten left over in your cupboard?

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How often have you heard someone say, “I’ll try the paleo/SCD/autoimmune paleo diet just as soon as I’ve used up all the wheat products I already have at home”? Or, “I don’t want to waste all this flour/pasta/bread, so I’ll eat it and then I’ll start the diet”?

I’ve heard it loads of times, and I’m not judging – I hate to waste anything, especially food, so I get it. But I had to draw a line in the sand where my health was concerned, which meant cutting out all gluten with no exceptions – at a time when I hadn’t been expecting it.

I had tons of stuff in my kitchen I could no longer use, and I found plenty of fun, useful ways to get rid of it without wasting. Here’s how:

1. Gave cookie mixes/chocolates/crackers to colleagues. They were thrilled and I made friends at work (always useful!)

2. Gave perishable items to family members or people in need.

3. Baked it up! Butter, flour, sugar, cocoa – it all got tossed together in cake and brownie recipes, and shared with friends, colleagues and K of course. A great idea is to bake a batch of brownies and freeze them for when you have unexpected guests over. They quickly defrost in the microwave and still taste delicious. Serve them with ice cream or a yummy flavoured yoghurt.

4. I got creative! Do you know you can make glue out of flour and water? Yup, just like you did at school. Make a papier mache project or a collage of your favourite pics from old magazines. You could even make an inspirational motivation board to help keep you on track. To make glue, mix 1/2 cup of flour with 1/3 cup water. You want the mixture to be just right – not too thick and gloopy, and not too thin. Add extra water or flour as necessary.

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5. Created a ‘special occasion’ shelf – NO, not for me! But I do still have a small selection of ‘illegal’ ingredients for when I feel like baking something for my family or for K. It’s kept separate from everything else to ensure that nothing gets contaminated (but don’t do this if you can’t avoid temptation!).

Please please try not to ‘eat it all up’ before starting your diet. Gluten can take up to six months to completely leave your system, so the sooner you start, the better. Be strict with yourself and completely remove temptation. And, by doing something creative or kind with the food you no longer need, you’ll enrich yourself emotionally and maybe help improve some else’s day too 🙂

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.

How to make your favourite dishes SCD legal/paleo

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When you tell people that you don’t eat dairy, grains or sugar, they often stare at you incredulously (and a little pityingly), before gasping, “What do you eat?”

The problem is that so many people have fallen into a groove of slapping together a toastie for lunch or a pot of macaroni cheese for dinner that thinking about creating a meal without bread or cheese or pasta or sugar (tomato sauce, I’m looking at you) seems virtually impossible. Pasta and puddings are easy, cheap, convenient and delicious to make, and without them… What will we EAT??

Here are some ideas: any kind of meat, basically any fruits and veg you can imagine (with the exception of one or two, like potatoes and bananas, if you’re doing paleo), nuts, nut milks, nut butters, seeds, honey (sparingly on SCD) and, once you start thinking a little more laterally, a ton of amazing desserts and treats made with these ingredients. If you’re doing SCD and you aren’t lactose-intolerant, you can add dairy products to this list too.

Of course, if you’ve become accustomed to eating pasta and bread-based meals, as well as the odd pizza cheat on weekends, it can be daunting to make the transition to ‘cleaner’ eating.  Yes, it’s a mindshift, but you’d be amazed at how quickly your thinking changes.

To help you along if you’re new to this, I’ve put together a list of some of the easier and more popular everyday meals that you can turn into SCD legal or paleo dishes.

Pancakes

Traditionally, these are made with milk, wheat flour and butter, so it seems almost inconceivable to make anything resembling a pancake without these ingredients.

Think again: For SCD pancakes, use eggs, almond flour and coconut oil – try this recipe or this one – or attempt an even easier 3-ingredient pancake that’s super light and quick to make.

Smoothies

Bought smoothies are often made with frozen yoghurt or ice cream and loaded with unhealthy sweeteners or sugar. Often they’re just as kilojoule-dense as milkshakes, and we’re tricked into believing that they’re healthy because they have a berry or two thrown in.

Make your own paleo or SCD smoothies at home by throwing your favourite fruit into a blender with a dash of pure fruit juice or a squeeze of lime, and instead of frozen yoghurt, use SCD yoghurt, coconut milk or coconut cream. Don’t forget to add a spoon of your favourite nut butter!

Get creative and come up with your own combinations – you really are limited only by your imagination (and taste buds).

Here’s a collection of great paleo smoothies and shakes to get your creative juices flowing.

Lasagna

This is an awesome hack for dairy, grain-free lasagna: Instead of pasta sheets, use slices of zucchini in between your layers of meat. You could also use butternut or even egg-white crepes that mimic the texture of pasta.

As for the sauce, use substitutes like cashew cream or cashew cheese. These ingredients may sound totally exotic to you now, but I promise that after making them once or twice, they’ll be old hat. If you told me three months ago that I’d be making my own yoghurt using nut milks and non-dairy cultures, I’d never have believed you. Now I do it once a week, and start to panic when my stock gets low!

Anyway, here and here are some fabulous collections of SCD/paleo lasagna recipes to try.

Spaghetti bolognaise

This one is super easy: The trick is not to be fooled by unhealthy packaged ingredients that you’re so used to adding to your bolognaise. It’s okay to use tomato paste, but make sure it has no added sugar. I’ve just about perfected my bolognaise recipe – it’s easy, affordable and totally more-ish. Here’s the recipe.

Instead of spaghetti, serve with cauliflower rice, roast butternut or – if you enjoy the ‘taste’ – shirataki noodles. This is actually a plant product that has a similar consistency to noodles, but zero calories and little-to-no taste (though I definitely detect a vague, odd flavour). It’s quite strange and expensive, but some people like it. Buy it here in South Africa.

Burgers

The only real problem here is the bun, so omit it and, if you like, wrap your pattie in lettuce. Of course, if you’re not doing dairy, omit any cheesy toppings. Bacon is also ill-advised because unless you’re buying organic, it’s usually laden with sugar and unhealthy additives and preservatives.

I have an amazing burger recipe that I’m super proud of – try it here.

Curry

Curries are GREAT for paleo and SCD, because they’re easy to serve without grains, and the recipe doesn’t usually call for dairy. This means that it’s so simple to make SCD/paleo curries. Simply omit any yoghurt and replace with coconut milk or cream, and for sweetness, add a dash of honey instead of sugar.

Make sure that any spices you use are good quality and don’t have any anti-caking agents or other additives in them. The best idea is to buy yours from a spice market, if you have access to one, or simply make your own spice mixes from scratch. This is more labour intensive but definitely worth the effort.

I’ll post K’s Thai green recipe soon, which ticks all the right boxes. In the mean time, browse this selection of paleo curry recipes. I’m also dying to try this SCD roast cauliflower soup recipe – it’s on my list for this winter (by the way, The Tasty Alternative has the most amazing SCD recipes).

Dessert

There are SOOO many healthy, clean SCD and paleo dessert recipes out there – do a quick Google search to see what I mean. Things you’d never even imagine existed. So you never need to feel like you’re missing out just because you can’t have caramel whip or cream cakes. In fact, because these desserts are so kind to your belly, you’ll finally get to enjoy a sweet treat without the awful after effects you’re so used to experiencing.

Here’s a baked apple crisp I made last weekend that was very easy to throw together, and enjoyed by everyone who tried it. My favourite review came from my mom, who said, “You can actually taste how healthy it is.” But yet, super delicious. Win!

Happy cooking, guys – and don’t be afraid to experiment!