I wrote up some tips for spoonies here. If you’re eliminating gluten, dairy, corn, and soy, and you have limited energy, check those out.

In the past, I’ve been too scared to try eliminating any particular food for more than a week. The reason was two-fold: one, I have such limited energy and I perceived dietary restrictions as being lots of extra work and two, I really like dietary indulgences. I savor good food. I think having something tasty is a great pleasure in life. And I tend to be a person who is fairly well-behaved (drinking rarely, staying away from drugs that aren’t prescribed to me, OTC, or caffeine, avoiding smoking, almost never going to parties). I think because I have so few indulgences, good food and laziness feel extra special to me. (Having limited energy does not equal being lazy. But sometimes, even when I do have a bit of energy, I give myself a lazy day.)

This time, I knew it would be different, because I’d have my health coach Monica to talk me through the plan, and to check in with me on how it’s going (an extra big deal since she’s going to have a little one any day now! so it’s very nice that she takes the time to email me). I’ve found those ways to deal with the diet that I mentioned in the tips post linked earlier. But I’ve learned some other things, too.

I’ve learned that I can be very happy with a salad, if I put the right things in it. I’ve learned that locally produced meats are amazing. I’ve learned that sometimes you really want butter, not olive oil or coconut oil, and that is a good time to use bacon grease if you happen to have it on hand.

My big takeaway, that I hope will stay with me even after I’m done adding foods back in and seeing what does or doesn’t make me feel bad, is that if I’m willing to do a little work and carefully budget, I can get high quality ingredients and make myself things that are not only just as indulgent as any foods I was eating before this, but tastier. Obviously, I shouldn’t subsist on a diet of Izze and Lara bars, or even home-made almond flour muffins (though anything made with almond flour is going to be much lower in sugar than any other baked good). But I hope that I’ve given myself a good foundation for expanding my diet to include a wider variety of healthier foods, without feeling deprived of the junk food I ate so often in the past. And I’ve learned that I don’t need to be afraid of changing my diet. I won’t starve, eat something that will make me feel bad because I decide it’s worth it, or live off of pistachios and fruit (though that has served as lunch a few times in the past 3 weeks).

Hello, friends! I’m on an elimination diet right now to see if I can identify specific foods as autoimmune triggers.  I’m using a protocol from the book The Immune System Recovery Plan. This is a very basic plan where I cut out gluten, dairy, corn, and soy for 3 weeks, then eat them again and see what my response is.

My hope was that I would be cooking more when I started this diet, but I have very limited energy and a fair number of obligations, so I have found myself choosing meeting those obligations over cooking for myself. (Are my priorities out of whack? Perhaps, but they are what they are.)

I’m trying to be very gentle with myself about this – I’m doing the best I can right now, and I have been pretty successful in avoiding these foods. I thought I would share some of the ways that I’m dealing with this. If you are on a stricter elimination diet (for example, no nuts, eggs, nightshades, caffeine, sugar of any type, etc), these tips probably aren’t for you. But if you’re just avoiding those big 4, this might help.

Tip #1: Mexican food is your friend.

Rice + beans + spices + guac + pico = DELICIOUS. You can order a taco salad and ask for it with no shell or dairy. Add meat if you want. Add guacamole if it doesn’t come with it.

Tip #2: Sandwich places that offer lettuce wraps are your friend.

Be sure to carefully investigate the sandwich fillings, though – a lot of them might have hidden wheat or soy.

Tip #3: Salad bars are your friend.

A lot of big grocery stores have them. I work on a university campus and it has one. This is great – I just get a container and load up on spinach, cucumbers, bell peppers, hard-boiled eggs, and chicken. Be careful about dressings, though. I bought a dressing from the grocery store that is free of all the ingredients I’m avoiding (balsamic vinaigrette is most likely to meet this requirement). I don’t get dressing from the actual salad bar.

Tip #4: LARABAR is your friend.

Check the ingredients on your particular bar to be sure, but these are all gluten free, and all the ones I’ve gotten are dairy free as well. They tend to be sweetened with dates (OM NOM NOM DATES SO GOOD) and brown rice syrup.

Tip #5: Scrambled eggs are your friends.

You can even make them in the microwave if you need to.

Tip #6: Smoothies are your friends.

This one’s easier if you have a high-powered blender, and I haven’t availed myself of it much yet because I’ve been slow in the mornings. But especially on a hot day, this is great. My recipe is 1c liquid (I usually go with water or coconut milk, but sometimes almond milk), 1 frozen banana, ½-1c other fruit, 6 ice cubes. I’m planning to add greens, coconut oil, chia seeds, and nut butter in the near future.

Tip #7: Be kind to yourself.

What you’re doing isn’t holy. It’s not that you are a morally better person if you’re eating whole foods, or that if, like me, you need to take the prepared foods route, you’re a bad person. You’re just trying to figure out what works for your body. If you mess up, it’s not too hard to start over. You’re doing the best you can, with the situation you have. Always.

Yesterday I had my first session with Monica Barco of Nourish Health Coaching. Monica and I have known each other for about 25 years. When I heard about her health journey and how similar it was to mine, I knew she would be a great health coach for me.

I am big into research, of course, so I know that whole foods are the best things you can eat, and in the past I’d had a session with a nutritionist where the only advice she gave me that I hadn’t already heard was to buy produce from the salad bar if you only need a small quantity. I have done a lot of reading about nutrition and exercise, and familiarized myself with many possibilities, tried and failed on a variety of restrictive eating plans, and currently practice intuitive eating which, because of the food science that food companies use, lately has led me to eat more and more processed foods. Time for a change!

I recently took Gretchen Rubin’s four Rubin-types quiz, which told me that I’m an Obliger (which I kind of already knew). Based on this, I figured that if all I gained from Monica was a person to check in with me, to make sure I was actually doing the things I know I’m supposed to do – somebody whose job it was and who I wouldn’t get annoyed with for asking (as I might do with family) – then that would be worth our time and her fee right there.

But of course, a health coach isn’t just a person who asks you if you’re doing things, and the most helpful thing Monica did for me in our session yesterday was remind me of stuff I already know and give me some new things to try. And that’s, I think, very high value. Because I forget that there actually ARE black teas that I like. I forget that a person could potentially have nut butter on toast for breakfast with a bit of fruit and it would be fast, easy, tasty, and, if it’s the right toast, healthy. So I need someone like Monica, not only to ask me if I’m doing the things, but to ask me questions and draw out what I’m willing to do, what I’d like to do.

If you at all think that you could benefit from health coaching, you should try it out. I think Monica would be willing to work with you over Skype or similar, if you’re not local. Can’t hurt to ask!

Stay tuned for food photos as I start having a wider variety of healthy breakfasts and drink more tea!

I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It’s an autoimmune disease in which my body attacks my thyroid. The thyroid controls basically, you know, every bodily function. So if it’s under attack and starts to function poorly, your (or, rather, my) whole body becomes a sad mess. This affects both physical and mental stuff. The treatment I use is a combination of two synthetic hormones that supplement the hormones my body either isn’t making or isn’t properly converting into other hormones.

For more than a year, I’ve felt like this condition was getting worse. And the lab tests showed a decline, but were still kind of okay-normal, but suboptimal, and I was just too scared to bring it up with my doctor.

Then in January I got feeling bad enough, and the test results were finally suboptimal enough, that I went to my doctor and checked in about getting an increase in the dosage of these hormones, which after some hand-wringing about how they could actually be hurting me, she eventually agreed to. About a week before that appointment, I started taking a selenium supplement, which has been shown in medical studies to help Hashimoto’s patients.

In early January, I was having a lot of really bad days. I was too sleepy to accomplish much in the first week. I had an eight-day headache. My joints were constantly aching. Sometimes my muscles ached, too. I felt stupid and slow. Exercise sounded like something that would be difficult to get through both because I wouldn’t really be able to breathe afterwards and because it would just aggravate my joints more. Getting up in the morning was very difficult. Many days, I was not confident in my ability to meet my basic adult obligations.

About a week after starting the selenium supplement, I began to feel kind of like a person again. I hadn’t really, not for the first three weeks of this year. I felt like maybe I was capable of dealing with life.

It takes about 4 weeks to notice much of a change from a dosage increase in thyroid meds, and 6-8 weeks for it to show up on a serum test. But today is two weeks since my dose increased, and I can feel a difference in my body and my attitude. Yesterday I went swimming for the first time in more than a month. I got up, took my medicine, braided my hair, kissed my husband goodbye, wished him a happy morning of playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, and was on my way. I swam for I don’t know how long, but I swam until my legs started to say, “Please, no more, thanks.”

This morning, I went for a walk. It was a one-mile walk. A couple of weeks ago, I would do this same walk, and at the end of it, I would need to just sit for ten minutes to catch my breath. This morning, I came in, sat for a minute or two, and started making breakfast. I hard-boiled some eggs. For the past couple of weeks, all I’ve been able to do was mix up an instant breakfast powder with milk.

My mind isn’t as sharp as I’d like yet, but I feel optimistic that it will be in the next month or two. I still get sleepy mid-afternoon, but I get a few hours of good thinking-time in at work before that happens. I can’t convey just what a difference it is to feel like things are getting better, like it’s possible for them to keep getting better.

I need to remember this feeling. I need to remember, next time I start to feel low, that I can take control, I can talk to my doctor, and I can make it better. I have that power. I need to internal-locus-of-control this thing, and I can. I can. That’s the hardest, and most important, part to remember.