How I Changed My Diet: Part II

Walkin’ on Sunshine

We left off in my last post around 2010. Life was good! I had discovered the Low-FODMAP diet and was finally experiencing some clarity regarding my IBS symptoms.  Most of the bloating and cramping that had plagued my every time I ate (for years!) was beginning to fade away. I had a plan, and I was sticking to it.

But, as most of us find out — especially as we get older!  — diet and exercise methods do not retain their effectiveness forever.  Workouts that once felt difficult become easier and less effective unless we challenge ourselves more.  Diets that involve cutting calories become less effective because our bodies adapt to the deficit.

Following diets that limit us to specific foods can work the same way.  If we stick to a narrow variety of foods, even ones that once felt good, our bodies can develop intolerances to them from over-exposure. Fast forward 3 or so years, and I realized the diet that had initially helped me so much was not working the same magic it once had.  A lot of this was on me: once you start the Low-FODMAP diet, the goal is to go through the elimination phase, then follow it up by slowly testing out different types of FODMAPs, one food at a time. I knew this, and had tried re-introducing a few foods here and there; but they immediately gave me symptoms! I was so happy with how I felt, I stayed on the elimination diet [mostly] for way too long.  In some ways, this was probably good…I imagine it did give my system a chance to heal from a lot of the inflammation that had built up over the years. But, over time it probably created problems as well. For example, the good bacteria in your gut needs certain carbohydrates (prebiotics) in order to stay vital, but I believe I probably wasn’t giving my gut enough of those with my FODMAPs so low.

The other issue, which bears mentioning, is that yet again I had developed fears around eating certain foods.  It was different foods now — and my fear was concretely based in experimental results, but still — I wasn’t happy about this development, and was definitely looking for more freedom, both in my meals & in my mind.

Time to Bring in a Professional

I decided that continuing this process [of changing/expanding my diet] was beyond what I could do on my own at that point.  I had plenty of motivation, but not quite enough knowledge.  Thankfully, the website for my favorite low-FODMAP book contained a long list of references to Dietitians all over the country who were trained on the low-FODMAP protocol ( 2019 Update: please also note that NTCs/NTPs can guide you through this elimination diet as well, including myself and others with this training!).  I was able to find one that wasn’t too far away, and we started meeting every couple weeks.  This made a HUGE difference for me.  Doing research on your own in great, and having a good personal support network is important; but sometimes having a professional that can give you precise knowledge, and also support you in the process, is priceless.

We started off by doing some basic blood tests, to see how various levels looked. I was feeling some fatigue, and we wanted to see if I was lacking in any specific vitamins or nutrients.  Interesting note here: You might have heard the phrase “You are what you eat,” but really, You are what you ABSORB.  The issue with food intolerances is not just that they make you feel bad — they actually cause enough inflammation and damage that your digestive system might be inhibited from absorbing all the nutrients you are trying to give it. 

This was again a big lightbulb moment for me. I realized that no matter how healthy I tried to eat, I was only ever going to take in the nutrients I need to be healthy if I really put in the time and effort to heal my digestive system.  As I continued to work with my dietician, we went through a variety of experiments and tests, tried out different supplements, and also just talked a lot. The two years that we worked together (on and off) were indescribably helpful, and I would recommend working 1 on 1 with a professional to anyone who feels in a rut and in need of some guidance!

Gentle Reminder: We Are Autonomous Beings

“..the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”

— J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

As it goes for any major changes, this was not a simple process; and it is one I still need to continually come back to.  My system is more sensitive than the average person’s, and irritants like gluten, dairy, soy, corn, alcohol…they can all set me back and put me into “recovery mode” vs. the “maintenance mode” that I aim to stay in.  It’s not always easy to have to prepare my own food, and its not always easy in social situations either. But as I have said in the past, Mindset is huge here.  Knowing my goal, and my “why”, ie. my reasons for the choices I make, has helped a lot. Learning to remember that and keep it in mind often has been especially relevant. I mostly stopped feeling “fomo” a long time ago, but it can still creep in now and again. Why can’t I  just eat pizza like my husband? Why can’t I just have that 2nd (or sometimes 1st!) glass of wine like my friends. But repeating to myself why I must stay true to my health and wellness provides good internal motivation.  And it’s not that I can’t do these thingsit is a choice I make, and one that I find well worth it.

and one more parting thought….“You Are the Master of Your Attitude”…

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control the way you think about all the events. You always have a choice. You can choose to face them with a positive mental attitude.” 
― Roy T. BennettThe Light in the Heart

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