My name is Kira Brighton, and I am a carboholic.
I love sugar, love it, and when I had to go on a low-carb elimination diet for two weeks in spring of 2017 to figure out my IBS, I was miserable. Yes, thank you, I would like to never ever do that again, please. Sugar is a lot of what gets me through my days--because it's not easy, living in a body with lots of pain and little energy. Sugar makes me happy, in a way that few things do.
As such, it makes sense that, after I was diagnosed with IC and multiple food sensitivities and had to permanently start a very limited diet, I defaulted to carbs, carbs, and more carbs. Not only do carbs make me happy, but they are easy to find in prepared form--even when the list of ingredients that you can't eat is a mile wide. Seeing as I have no energy to spare and absolutely despise cooking (I have no idea how anyone can enjoy it), of course my diet focused at first on the easiest things I could still have: baked potatoes with cheese, pasta with cheese, and vanilla wafers.
But of course, this limited, carb-heavy diet is not a healthy one, and it didn't take long for my blood tests to reflect that. I'd already been struggling some with my weight and with my cholesterol/triglycerides. So I started making an effort to add more protein to my diet, as well as to test out some of the foods that my IC might or might not allow as my condition improved. Through this, I discovered some more food sensitivities: beyond corn, lactose, and oats, my digestive system also reacts badly to annatto, peanuts, and rice. I also discovered that, somewhere in the last couple of years, I'd developed a moral revulsion towards meat. Many of my friends are vegetarian, my politics have become more liberal, and I've always been an animal lover, so it's not entirely unexpected. More than anything, though I know that it isn't medically appropriate for me to avoid meat with my conditions, I find myself unable to stop thinking about the fact that I'm eating animal muscle. That's disgusting. It's like if I ate my own butt muscles or something. The less cooked the meat, the worse I struggle with it--so not having premade options due to nitrites and the like has just made everything so much harder.
Yet in the meantime, my IC had loosened its grip on my diet a little, so I did settle into a slightly healthier set up: vanilla wafers, almond butter and pretzels, red apples, and more pasta with mozzarella. When my mom was available to cook, I sometimes had more protein-heavy dinners, though I really struggled to stomach hamburgers in particular. But I still wasn't getting anywhere with my weight-loss or metabolic numbers, and eventually, my vitamin levels became a concern. So I added jicama and mountains of red grapes, which I have developed a pretty strong craving for, to my regular diet.
At the beginning of this year, I had to start taking vitamin B12 injections to make up for the continued lack of protein/animal products in my diet. Sometime last month, my brother Nathan, who has struggled with obesity and related sleep apnea, began a new healthy diet initiative of his own. He used the government MyPlate site to come up with a plan--which he's still adjusting, because he has food sensitivities of his own and also doesn't like cooking. Around the same time, a new study took the fibromyalgia world by storm when it revealed that fibromyalgia may be related to low-level insulin resistance and that patients who took the diabetes drug metformin (which my dad takes for his Type II Diabetes, a condition my grandfather died of before my parents even met) saw positive results.
All of this, together with an argument I had with my mom, convinced me to do the same as Nathan and try to come up with a healthier and more complex diet plan that fit the MyPlate guidelines. So at the beginning of this month, Nathan helped me work it out. It was a struggle, in particular because of my lactose intolerance, which only allows me a small amount of dairy, and because of the limited calorie amount I have to stay at in order to maintain my weight. We finally figured out that, with the addition of almond milk, it was possible. The new diet had much more protein, dairy, and vegetables and less grains and fruit.
I've been on the diet for three weeks now, and I'm still adjusting it to better fit me. I continue to struggle greatly with eating meat, and I continue to hate cooking. (Seriously, how does anyone enjoy doing that?) I've also been having a lot of trouble with my health the last couple of weeks, probably due to my sleep schedule becoming more night-heavy than ever as my insomnia has risen from the dead to haunt me--but it could also be the new diet's not helping. So yesterday I got to work changing things up again. Instead of strictly following the MyPlate guidelines that separate dairy and protein food groups, I tried instead to hit the recommended 58g of protein a day through dairy and other sources. Once again, it was a major struggle to plan around my lactose intolerance, because almond milk and butter do not have hardly any protein at all. I ended up crying a lot from my continued frustration with all my diet limitations--this would be so much easier if I could eat premade meals! And I miss being able to actually eat things like normal people!
Finally, I figured out that I felt better about eating chicken than other meats (because birds are mean little dinosaurs and chicken's more healthy for you anyway) and that, between that and the possible addition of yogurt, I might be able to make things work. Yogurt has more lactose in it than cheese, and with just a 1/2 cup of mozzarella, I already have to take four lactase pills. But the Internet said that, because of the probiotics in yogurt, yogurt actually tends to work all right for lactose intolerant people. So I started out today with a Greek yogurt--which I hated. It took me an hour to choke it down, and since then, I've been having lots of stomach trouble, even though I took my lactase pills. I'm not sure if this is because the Internet lied to me about yogurt's friendliness for lactose intolerant people or if its because of the general state of upset that my body is in right now. I'm going to try Icelandic skyr and then regular old yogurt, and I suppose we'll see how it goes. (It's all vanilla flavor of course--the one boring flavor my IC still allows.)
So that's the current state of things as I continue to struggle with eating as a chronically ill person. I'll update you later on how this new set-up goes, and we'll see in the long run if it helps me with my blood tests and my weight--or, even better, with the fatigue and pain I'm constantly battling. Let's hope I can make it work!
As always, giving unsolicited advice to disabled people is an unhelpful microaggression, and with the complexity of my diet, I don't think most people could even begin to help me out, but if you're chronically ill and/or have food sensitivities, I'd love to hear more about your experience. Let's commiserate!
I'll be back next week with a new guest post from Katie Sherwood on the Ch1Con/Ch21Con 2019 blog tour! See you then.
Images via skeeze-272447 on Pixabay, pngimg.com, Evan-Amos on Wikipedia, qjpioneer on Pexels, usdagov on Flickr, and pngimg.com.
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