Sink your teeth into this, AIPs!

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Rump steak, fresh avocado and stir-fried vegetables

There are few things I love more than a juicy rump. I’m also a big fan of a rare steak, so I was pretty thrilled that K chose to fry up this bad boy for us tonight.

For carnivores, it’s the ideal paleo, autoimmune paleo or SCD meal: rump steak seasoned with fresh garlic and black pepper, trimmed of fat and fried in a dab of olive oil, served with perfectly ripe, creamy avo and lightly stir-fried veg seasoned with salt, pepper, a touch of lemon juice and a sprinkling of apple cider vinegar.

Such a simple but delicious meal that really hits the spot, and provides a solid dose of healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals. Plus, it takes just a few minutes to whip up. Win!

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What I learnt during 100 days of SCD

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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.

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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?”

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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!

This is not a cheat day. This is a cheat *year* and you are not allowed

This is not a cheat day. This is a cheat *year* and you are not allowed

If you’re always hungry, you’ll totally get this

I’m a bit of a Buzzfeed addict and when I read this one, I found myself nodding along vehemently to each one (but especially number 18!)

’26 Struggles only people who are constantly hungry will understand’ is definitely true for me – and hilarious. Enjoy 🙂

http://www.buzzfeed.com/samstryker/struggles-only-people-who-are-constantly-hungry-will-unde

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Day 73: Broccoli, bloating and 5 awesome phase 3 treats

I introduced broccoli yesterday and, as with most things I’ve introduced, I’ve followed best practices by eating it at dinner on the first night, lunch and dinner tonight, and I’ll do lunch and dinner again tomorrow.

Unbelievably, I seem (so far) to not be reacting to it. Could it be because I’m cooking it until it’s properly dead, or is it because 2 and a half months on SCD has really started to heal my gut? I like to think it’s the latter.

As for the bananas, I’ve been sticking to my limit of 2 per day, and it’s making a huge difference to my bloating. Right now, it’s 9pm and I’ve eaten all my food for the day, yet I don’t feel uncomfortable, bloated or particularly gassy. Portion control is going well too, and I think all of this is contributing to overall feelings of increased comfort.

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5 Awesome phase 3 treats

I tend to forget that  I can ‘mix and match’ the ingredients that I’ve already introduced to my diet to create some pretty amazing snacks. Here are 5 yummy things I can eat right now:

  • Banana and egg pancakes/scramble drizzled with honey

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  • Butternut roasted with garlic, tomato, onion and coriander

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  • Yogurt, banana and honey smoothie (with optional nut butter)

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  • Soups: Carrot soup made with homemade coconut milk, garlic and coriander; tomato soup with black pepper, garlic and coriander

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  • GUACAMOLE! (mashed avo mixed with garlic, tomato puree, coriander, salt and pepper). Use as a sauce with any meat – works particularly well with fish.

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There are lots more I could make based on the food I’m able to eat, so I really need to experiment a bit more. I’ve splurged on fresh stashes of macadamia butter and almond butter, with which I’ll also need to practice serious portion control. I also discovered that the shop downstairs has started selling freshly pressed apple juice! Life = made. Always such a treat when things just work out!

I’ve been thinking about buying a juicer. Anyone with IBD/IBS  have any experiences to share?

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 🙂

Day 25: Variety and Valentine’s Day

Ah, variety. Thank goodness it’s the spice of life, considering that I have so little actual spice in it right now!

I’m gradually reaching a point where I have options for my meals. The avo has gone brilliantly, the squashy veg are old hat, and I’ve already cooked up my mushrooms that I’ll be testing from tomorrow. Tonight’s meal of venison patties, avo, squash and boiled egg really was delicious, and it enabled me to eat a semi-normal meal with my family that didn’t look like baby food.

I’m actually starting to enjoy this diet now – something I never thought I’d say. But, as I’ve said before, I’m incredibly lucky to have taste buds that don’t mind the same boring food day in and day out. They, of course, love any food that comes their way, but they’ve been pleasantly compliant throughout most of this diet so far.

I’m finally getting over my cravings too – veeeerrry slowwwly. Tomorrow night my friends and I are heading to the open-air cinema at the V&A Waterfront (THE most popular tourist attraction in Cape Town, pic below), where you have a picnic while watching a movie.

It might not look like it from this pic, but the Waterfront has hundreds of high-end shops, some of the best restaurants in Cape Town, an aquarium, amazing hotels, pubs, bars and ice cream vendors, and those cliched troupes of African dancers for the benefit of tourists

It might not look like it from this pic, but the Waterfront has hundreds of high-end boutiques, some of the best restaurants in Cape Town, an aquarium, amazing hotels, pubs, bars and ice cream vendors, and those irritating troupes of African dancers, especially for the tourists

I know it’s going to be hard to see my friends drinking wine and scoffing the treats on sale (which I’m telling myself are going to be drenched in yucky re-used oil and bits of plasticky spice), but I’ll cope. Whoever thought SCD legal apple juice would look so appealing! I’ve already packed it in, along with my little tuppaware container of eggs, mushrooms, avo and bananas. We’re watching Romeo + Juliet and I’m pretty excited. I haven’t been before.

Speaking of Romeo and Juliet…

It’s nearly Valentine’s Day guys! Are you doing anything special? I’ve never been hugely into it but K is a romantic soul, and she loves (while fully recognising) the cheesiness of it. The first year we were together, I had her desk covered in the largest assortment of cheese I could find: Heart-shaped sweets and balloons and chocolates and a massive ‘I love you’ elephant, which pretty much has become the elephant in the room in our tiny apartment! Anyway, she in turn drew me this beautiful picture of us, which now lives happily on our wall:

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Last year, I baked her this cake, and had it delivered to her desk, once again:

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It was a red velvet cake completely smothered in cream-cheese frosting – actually the same recipe as my sister’s wedding cake from the year before (where I started my first horrific flare. Yes, at the wedding. I mean have you ever?! But that’s a story for another day).

The message on the cake, written in pink glittery food gel, said (and I’m embarrassed even typing this): Just like icing, you’re the best part, and just like cake, you’ve stolen my heart. Except ‘heart’ was actually that heart-shaped biscuit. And it’s a fact – cake was my first true love. I loved it even before the hipsters did.

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That cake in fact won us two tickets to the Madame Zingara Theatre of Dreams – a fabulous ‘dinner cirque spectacular’ based in a travelling tent, where you enjoy an amazing 3-course dinner (their signature dish is the chocolate chilli steak, which I have every time) while watching this mind-blowing array of circus acts, cabaret artists, acrobats and my most favourite drag queen ever, Cathy Specific. I love her so, so much. There’s also a fancy dress shop where you can try on (and buy) the craziest props and dress-up gear.

Drag queens are, in fact, my not-so-secret love. All my friends know I’m totally obsessed with Cathy (*real name Brendon van Rhyn), and even K worries sometimes when I watch her shows over and over again. Most recently he played Dr Frank ‘n Furter on stage in Cape Town and I watched it twice, sitting in the front row and just gawking, completely star-struck, at my gorgeous Cathy/Brendan/Frank.

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Cathy and I at Madame Zingara. Me totally star-struck, of course

With Cathy/Frank at the premier of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Fugard Theatre. After this photo was taken, he gave me a kiss on the cheek and I was FINISHED!

With Cathy/Frank at the premier of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Fugard Theatre. After this photo was taken, he gave me a kiss on the cheek and I was FINISHED!

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K and I at Madame Zingara

AAAANYway, back to my original point (now I know why colleagues never stop by my desk for a quick chat…), it’s V-Day on Friday and this year, after two years of crazy, all-out gestures, we’re reining it in. We’ve kinda graduated from the tween cheesiness, and we’re also trying to save for a trip to the US next year, Rand-dependent. And of course, I’m in no position to even think about cake!

So we’re going to a very fancy restaurant at the Waterfront, and I’m hoping for the best. I’ve emailed them twice, and K has phoned them, and I think they’re going to be able to make something for me that won’t completely derail me. I still won’t be drinking, but it’s going to be nice to splurge and be really pampered at such a fancy place.

I even plan to put on a dress – which, trust me, is something that happens roughly twice a year!

Day 23: Hello Phase 2!

This really feels like quite a milestone, even though in real terms, all it meant was a bowl of mashed avocado added to tonight’s dinner – but I can assure you, it was the best tasting avo I’ve ever had! 😉

My body actually had a few new experiences today. First there was the SCD-legal rooibos and vanilla tea, which didn’t really do me any favours, and then there was the apple juice, which was sinfully delicious. Even though it’s healthy and 100% organic and pure, it’s obviously still not wise to overdo it. I’m limiting myself to 100-200ml of it per day.

The avo with my dinner was amaaaazing! I actually froze it weeks ago in anticipation of this night, and just defrosted it and mashed it up before dinner. I had it with grilled chicken, gem squash and butternut, so I’m really getting to a point where I can have quite a varied meal.

I mashed my avo but you don't have to

I mashed my avo but you don’t have to

On the breakfast and lunch fronts though, I’m still seriously lacking creativity. Breakfast is still two boiled eggs each morning, and lunch is usually bananas. Today I had fewer bananas and I’m definitely trying to cut down on them. Tomorrow I’ll have avo for lunch.

Errrr... I think you messed some on your face.

Errrr… I think you messed some on your face.

Bloating, gas or cramps today? 

Yes, no and yes.

I haven’t really had any gas, but I did feel a tightness in my belly this morning after the rooibos tea. Later in the afternoon, I experienced some fleeting stabbing pains in my lower left quadrant, which I know is an area usually associated with UC. So while it’s not surprising, it is interesting. Why was I having those pains? Before the avo tonight, the only new things were the drinks.

But it could also have been (yet) another overload of bananas – or stress caused by an extremely difficult client I dealt with today, or my body being slightly compromised by a bad bout of hayfever, or a variety of other environmental factors. Remember that it’s always difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for your symptoms if you’ve been treating your body well. If you’ve been out on a massive bender and then binged on super-sized McDonalds… well, I think you can be pretty sure what caused your discomfort 😉

For the most part, we can mitigate certain factors that affect our health, like the food we put into our bodies, how much (or too much!) exercise we do, and how much sleep we get. We can mitigate stress to some degree, but it’s not always possible to manage it completely. At the end of the day, we’re just human. Plus, there are so many environmental, genetic and psychological factors that contribute to our overall health.

The point is, do what you can. Diet will help; attitude will help; medication will help. But symptoms can and do happen – it’s just the nature of our disease. When they do, do whatever you can to ensure your comfort – you know your body best. Then try to stay calm and let it pass. If it doesn’t pass, always seek medical help!

Anyway, back to my belly today 😛 This evening after dinner I experienced mild discomfort, but I’m a complete idiot and gobbled two bananas after dinner, so perhaps it was those (and not the avo). I’ll have avo on its own for lunch tomorrow to gauge my reaction better.

And what about BMs?

This morning was so-so but this evening, after exercising and eating dinner, I had an extremely satisfying BM that really made me feel tons better, and removed any discomfort. The extra fat in my dinner tonight, thanks to the avo, might’ve been just what I was needing.

23 days in and feeling strong. Although… not strong enough just yet to tackle that carrot juice!