I know I have not been updating a lot recently and have really fallen out of the blogging realm, but I have been trying to figure out my health since March and have had some real struggles which happens to most of us living with an autoimmune disease. We might have several years of feeling like we have this under control only to wake up one morning and have our health take a downward spiral. Luckily my disease is still offering my symptoms that I can live with meaning I’m still working every day, teaching my yoga classes and participating in life. The hard part is that I don’t have an ounce of energy left for anything else. That is a probably for so many reasons but mostly because dealing with an autoimmune disease means we have to learning, studying, trying, trialing, succeeding and failing all the time and getting lazy about it doesn’t help anything.
I was faced with a choice for a medication change. I could continue taking my medication but instead of taking 1 time a day on an empty stomach take it 2 times a day both have to be on an empty stomach. This gives me an increased dose and spreads the doses out during the day in the hopes of being in my system longer and being more effective. The other option is to try a new biologic drug on the market. This drug is the first FDA approved medication for Lupus & Mixed Connective Tissue Disease in 50 years. Not since Plaquenil has a new drug been FDA approved. Well here we are. Talk about trials and errors, since this drug is so new there is not enough long term research for this medication. However, without people to try it how will we ever get the long term affect studies we need? I say this but also know that I’m not in a desperate enough situation to be the guinea pig so I have to give this real thought and weigh all my options. I’m not 100% opposed to trying it out but need time to think about it as well.
The problem with the first option is that finding 2 times a day when your stomach is truly empty. Morning is easy, but later in the day it gets harder. I was thinking about this so much over this past weekend that it was stressing me out. I was feeling like a prisoner in my disease which I haven’t felt for so very long. I have been living with but also managing my MCTD for 14 years and now I feel stuck, a little afraid and frustrated. I sat in the sauna thinking about all the years that I felt relatively pretty good. Remembering where my mind was, how my body felt, what I was doing on a daily basis. I was a student of my disease, researching all the time, choosing health as my other full time job, trying different things all the time and journaling what worked and what didn’t. I left that sauna knowing that I was becoming a student again. I got out my books, journal, notes and started to study. Cleaned the pantry and cleaned the fridge and starting new. It will take some time to figure this out but I have time, in fact I have let the last year go by being a bit lazy about my health. The focus begins again and process is about to start over. I am going to embark on the AIP – Autoimmune Protocol in order to get my body and mind back to base-line. The AIP is a regiment of nutrition, exercise, meditation, medication (if prescribed by your doctor), sleep, and stress management. It is strict, it is not easy to adapt, but once the body is back to base-line then the healing, transformation, and new normal can begin.
I have the support of my husband and feel grateful for his strength as I sort this out. I do a lot of talking out loud and even crying and yelling which he unfortunately gets caught in the middle of, but sometimes it just takes his quiet demeanor to keep me in check. Together we will figure this out with the help of other resources as well.
As many of you know I don’t post recipes often because quite frankly there are so many blogs, websites and Pinterest sites that provide every recipe you can imagine or want. However, sometimes I even surprise myself and come up with a must share recipe. Quick back ground, last week a friend introduced me to Barney Butter which is this delightful almond butter made with cocoa and coconut oil, which you can find in your local stores or on line and perhaps that is the easiest way to enjoy this delightful creation of “Nutella” for adults. There is no hazelnut but just having a cocoa flavor, clean nut, spread for apples, vegetables, seed crackers or whatever you would normally put almond butter on. After trying this little tub of yummy goodness, and it is little, I had my husband try it and he looked at me so seriously with those confident eyes and said “this is good but you can make it better.” My husband truly has the most faith in me and knows that if it can be bought in a store then I can make it at home, better, cleaner, and less expensive so the gallant has been thrown, the challenge was on, and I was ready.
This weekend I think I came up with the perfect concoction of almond, coconut, cocoa and shared it with husband who said now that is truly a “Nutella for adults” shot, score, win in a matter of moments. So if you are so inclined and want to try this recipe, here it is and since I’m not a baker, chef, or food blogger this is my version without bells and whistles but my husband did think that having a picture or 2 were imperative so here it is and feel free to share with anyone you think would like it, or makes their own food. I think making your own food anytime you can is the best bang for your buck but we all don’t have a lot of time, patients or will to make food at home. I learn by making mistakes and I make a lot of mistakes in the kitchen so if your first batch doesn’t turn out like you thought, keep trying.
3 cups raw almonds
¼ cup coconut oil
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 quick dash of maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 300
- On cookie sheet put the almonds
- Cover in coconut oil and add salt
- Roast the almonds to your liking, I want mine still moist so they cream well and take them out of the oven once I start to really smell them. Est time is about 30 minutes
- Cool briefly and add almonds to a food processor, or heavy duty blender if you wish
- Grind almonds and continually scrap the sides and be patient this is a long process
- Once the almonds start to cream add the cocoa powder and just a quick dash of maple syrup. This sweetness is to cut the bitterness of cocoa powder
- If you want it thinner or creamier you can slowly add in more liquid coconut oil. I had warmed a little bit and had it ready if I needed it but did not use it.
- Remove and add to your favorite Mason jar or container and eat anytime.
On Sunday my husband and I decided to go to brunch because we hadn’t eaten out since our vacation several weeks ago and do enjoy going out every once in a while for either brunch or dinner but really brunch is our favorite. He picked the place which was this adorable little place in the Old Port Portland area. We walked in and the place was small and the food smelled so good. We were seated right away and didn’t arrive terribly hungry so we were able to contain ourselves for a minute while we sipped hot coffee planning our brunch in a strategic manner. They had an entire page of different meats and cheeses so my husband ordered some of his favorite meats and we nibbled happily away on them. This is a place that makes home-made donuts to order so they come out piping hot but both of us were able to resist such treats and went to order our meals. We were looking at the different egg combinations, hash combinations and feeling pretty good about having a gluten-free brunch. Until I saw it, right there on the menu, front and center; orange hazelnut butter brioche French toast with Maine maple syrup. Sold to the highest bidder which happened to me at that time and our table. My husband took my cue that gluten-free did not have to pertain to this meal on this day with this beautiful lady sitting across from him so he proceeded to order Eggs benedict on brioche bread.
A little more coffee, some delicious food, and amazing company and this couple was in state of true satisfaction and contentment. Everything was fine and dandy as we left this little bistro every happy and extremely full. We went about our day and into the evening things changed and changed quickly. My joints were starting to stiffen, my body felt so tired, and my mind was in a fog. My husband just looked at me and said that is what gluten will do. I couldn’t believe it happened in the same day. I didn’t even have a chance to journal about our fabulous brunch before I was feeling the effects. My husband started feeling the effects later with some uneasy full feelings that lasted way into the evening and neither of us slept well. Yesterday morning we woke up and I did get up to do my exercise routine and yoga routine because I really have to not feel well to skip my routine so I continued about my morning but when he asked me how I was feeling the truth was I was still feeling pretty lethargic and my joints were still really stiff this morning. If the effects can happen that fast they should go away just as fast but it doesn’t work that way. Neither of us have been diagnosed with any intolerance to gluten but the longer we go without eating it the harder the effects are when we do so we are normally really conscience about it and just let our guards down the other day. Have we learned our lesson? Honestly no, probably not but the next time when it is several weeks or even months from now we will probably be reminded just as quickly how much better off we are when we stick with proteins and fats and have our starches in the form of vegetables, white rice and potatoes. The lessons of life can hit you like a brick in the stomach literally or gentle reminders to be mindful about what you eat and drink and know the consequences of each and every action. We are still learning.
I have been at my clean eating challenge now for just about 2 weeks. Not enough time to really establish concrete information but enough time to analyze a couple of things. The first is if I do not get enough food my mind starts to play me. For instance, I got caught up in meetings and food was not a priority, I didn’t feel hungry and thought I was ok until I hit a wall and just knew that I needed something sweet. What I needed was food but what my mind was saying is that it was deprived and wanted something rewarding. I did not engage in my sweet tooth and instead had a bigger than normal meal when I had time and the sweet need subsided.
I work in an office environment and as you can probably guess there is some sort food around here at all times and if I don’t stay on top of my food my brain can get out of control thinking it needs to partake in the goodness around here for no other reason than it is here. I have been able to put all cravings aside at home but I’m also having big beautiful filling dinners so the need for anything after dinner is not existent. My goal is to get to the point when I am nourishing my body enough that all cravings go away but I don’t know that if that is realistic. I hear of other people saying they don’t have cravings and read posts and articles of people who can change their taste buds so that berries seem too sweet sometimes. I long to be in that boat but don’t have a clear understanding how long it takes or if that is truly possible for me.
I have found that I don’t need snacks the way I once did at 10am and 3pm so I know things are changing for the better but I also haven’t gotten to the point where if I cannot eat food that my body is ok with the intermittent fasting approach either. I also move a lot during the day and in order to keep up with my activities I need the food so fasting isn’t really that important but life does get in the way and I would like to be able to go about my day as normally as possible and if food is not an option for several hours perhaps that will be ok and my mind won’t start gravitating to sweet things.
I do realize like I said at the beginning that it is too soon to tell exactly what kind of changes my body is making. I have been cutting back on gluten and grain now for 2 years but the sugar I didn’t tackle because I really do enjoy sweets and I enjoy indulging in them with my family and husband when I want. After our escapade to camp this year and really over indulging I decided I don’t have to cut them out forever but I would like to make a change enough to have them when I want and not think about them nearly as often as I do.
Ever have those sluggish days and you just aren’t sure what causes it, why you are dealing with it, or when will it go away? I have many times myself but have you ever had sluggish days and you know exactly what is causing it? Can you tell I’m having a sluggish day? I am having a sluggish day and it actually started yesterday. I was going back through my journal trying to pinpoint my trigger for why I might be feeling this way and it hit me after reading a few days of my journal, the whole reason I keep a journal but I digress.
As I’m reading I see that I started my after vacation detox of getting back to real food and took out all grains and sugar as of Sunday. Notice I didn’t say carbs since I have been eating a lot of vegetables and had a couple of days of sweet potatoes to keep my body performing strong during my weight training and Insanity sessions. With that said however I did some research and about the 3-5 day mark your body starts to revolt a bit and you become very sluggish, a little irritable and your performance drops. After a about a week the sluggish is supposed to subside and the performance should come back. I was not rocking my work out very well yesterday and took this morning off since my body is feeling pretty tired. On Sunday it will be 1 week and I can see where I go from there.
The plus is that I don’t have those cravings in the afternoon like I was before and I feel like I’m eating a little more than I was before but my trainer will analyze my food journal and let me know if he believes the same to be true. I never get blamed for eating too much but I certainly have weeks where it shows I’m not eating enough and that may be life, the fact that I’m a woman with my own head games, timing, or all of the above. As my trainer has me lifting heavier it is more important than ever to get out of my own head and make sure I’m eating enough to perform such tasks without the risk of injury. I have made 3 commitments to myself this week and doing quite well with them but they are also difficult so I’m taking it day by day with a refocus on the importance of each one. My first commitment was to drink a green drink every day, ok this one is not difficult more a habit forming task which is going just fine. I like the drink and since it has pre and probiotics so I can only see it being a benefit. There is no sugar in this drink as I’m being extremely careful about grains and sugar.
My second commitment is to eat real food and although I had a lot of preparing to do over the weekend each day has been full of real foods that are filling and satisfying and I have used an apple once this week for a sugar craving that I had but that was early on and I don’t see apples as my issue. This is hard for my brain to commit to long term but maybe my taste buds will over power my brain and if I don’t want the grains and sugar I certainly realize my body does not “need” them.
The third commitment and also my hardest, to get off the scale addiction I have had for my entire adult life. I have used the scale to measure my success but losing weight in the form of muscle instead of fat does nothing for my performance but it certainly looks good as I look down between my feet and my brain registers I’m doing well. My life should dictate if I’m successful in the way I look, feel and perform. These words are so much easier said than done but I am willing to try. I have a pair of pants that I am using to measure my success instead of the scale. As time goes on I hope I’m pleasantly surprised and if not I may ditch this pants thing and go back to the scale!!
I recently received a note from a reader that is dealing with stress and as I was reading her note I had a flood of thoughts come rushing to me which I needed to process and give great thought to. Stress is dangerous to everyone in general, and as we deal with life in general, work situations, home situations and other things our stress levels rise. I hear so often that we need to manage our stress better, and that is so much easier said than done. I was thinking back to this last year in my life and can see how things quickly unraveled for me personally.
This time last year almost to the day I talked to my husband about taking a more demanding position at my job and agonized over what this decision meant for me, and for us as a couple. His first response was, what would it do to my health and how would I deal with the added stress. At the time I was making this decision I was feeling very strong mentally and physically. I had been doing cross fit for at least 3 months and doing things my body could never do before. I was going long periods of time without flares. I was in the Bikram studio regularly 5 days a week and more when I could. I was sleeping 8-9 solid hours every night and eating a Paleo diet so I honestly thought I had this wrapped and if ever was a time to do make this move it was at that very moment. Never in my life did I feel more capable of making a change and here was my opportunity. I took the job knowing full well that I was going to work really hard for a short amount of time and then when my time was done I would pursue a gentler life and teach yoga or do something that really drove me to get up every morning. I look back at that now and wonder exactly what have I done. I used to spring out of bed with a huge smile, ready to rock my day and nothing stood in my way of achieving my goals whether they were personal, fitness, health, career or life goals.
Fast forward 2 months to Nov and I’m sitting in my doctor’s office with a blood pressure reading that is off the charts. He looks at me and instantly says what has changed. I have a new job, it is more demanding. I’m losing sleep over all I have to accomplish and trying to find 26 hours in a 24 hour day. He asked if I was still exercising and I told him yes but that I didn’t feel as good doing it. My fatigue was so much higher but I still pushed and pushed. The holidays come and go and for the first time in over 10 years I had put on “holiday weight” really how did that happen and what do I need to do to get it off? These seem like questions people have all the time but I didn’t have these questions before. I knew where my fatigue came from and even in my highest levels of fatigue I still had motivation to work out maybe even more motivation because I knew how good I would feel when I was done.
I start to realize something is very wrong but getting my point out there was harder than I first thought. I started to believe this was all hormonal and wanted my levels tested immediately. Fast forward again to nearly a year from the day that I started this job and I am truly a 40 year old woman in full menopause. I don’t sleep but 3-4 hours at any given time. I’m so tired but wired most of the time and feel adrenaline rushes periodically throughout the day which means my body is just pumping the cortisol. I’m
20 pounds over my normal weight with no motivation to exercise to decrease this added weight. I want to eat clean but my brain takes over with these stupid weird cravings and as much as I want to fight them I give in from time to time. So, did I cause this premature menopause by stressing my body to the very max? I honestly will never know and although my doctor and I can speculate all we want the truth is I could have kept my life the way it was and still went through menopause early. However, I feel very strongly that I have created this mess for myself.
I thought like most people I could manage the extra stress. I was certain I was strong enough to continue to live my healthy lifestyle. I was naive enough to believe I had this under control and I was blind enough to not realize until I receive a note from another that this was all menopause related and not stress related. With that said, thank you Jessica for opening my eyes to what I’m really doing here. At least now I can make no changes but not hide from what I’m doing or make changes in the hope of changing the outcome I have created for myself.
I’m in the process of really processing everything that is happening to me and seeing what I can change, what I’m willing to change, what I’m committed to in the short term that won’t allow any change and where can I tweak to at least feel better if change is not an option. I’m sure I’m not the only one going through this but it sure feels good to just get it out and process through it.
Things seem to come in 3 and my exposure to Paleo is one of those things. First exposure, I had a reader write and tell me that she started the Paleo diet after reading my blog and it not only helped her MCTD symptoms but her menopausal symptoms. Exposure number 2 was running into a yoga friend who has started something similar to the Paleo diet but no name attached to it, and here is exposure number 3. My husband and I were invited to a party this weekend and we decided to go. I have been a bit of a recluse while I try and figure this stuff out and since I haven’t been feeling great and a bit moody it is better if I limit my exposure to people unless I truly have to which is every day when I go to work and I work in sales. As you can imagine I don’t have a lot of tolerance and energy to put on the happy face after doing so all week but we did it. I mention this because if you feel bad for whatever reason, MCTD, menopausal, just because, sometimes getting out there and being exposed to people can make you feel better.
We don’t always have the strength for putting on the face, but if you do have the strength do it. Pick your times wisely and then get out and have fun. This is exactly what we did and went to a pool party. As we were chatting with everyone someone mentioned they were doing the, you guessed it, Paleo diet. My husband’s ears perked first and said let’s go over and listen. This woman was fairly new to the concept but was so excited about it and how good she felt and even going to pool parties didn’t slow her down because there is always things there for her to eat. She was so excited about her new lifestyle and honestly her excitement was contagious to me.
On our way home I said to my husband I’m ready to start again. Go strict Paleo and really incorporate this back into our lives. He looked at me and said, this never left our lives it just changed a bit and isn’t that really what a lifestyle is? We eat protein and vegetables every day and although I have loosened up with some grains we still don’t eat breads, pastas and rice. We added oatmeal to our regime and that is not to be scolded over. We do need to drop the sweets but with my mini challenges I’m working well towards that goal and lastly is dairy. Most strict Paleo take it completely out but I have always chosen to keep some in my diet except for yogurt. I like yogurt but the sugar is high so I stick with cottage cheese and other cheeses. I’m still playing with the dairy idea and haven’t decided exactly how I’m treating that going forward. I never stopped listening to my Paleo podcast and my exercise reflects the Paleo lifestyle with my walking, yoga, weight training and 30 minutes of intense exercise which can be cross fit or sprinting. These days it is mostly walking and yoga though.
As I start to rethink things in my life and re-explore old habits I’m ready to take back on the Paleo lifestyle, but I have to finish this challenge in the meantime so on this day I walked 14089 steps.