Food Intolerance – One Test, Improved Energy and Reduced Hunger

I know I’ve talked in the past about my food intolerance issues which started, or were discovered, I guess, around the same time I started paleo, which is nearly ten years ago now. I’ve been struggling with health issues, weight loss, energy and various frustrations since. I felt like I got exponentially older each day. My sleep was terrible, mood was depressed or angry, hunger was constant and it made me feel like my willpower sucked. I had new skin issues, and general daily fatigue as well as post-workout fatigue that was debilitating the entire day after a workout.

I was overweight, hungry, moody, tired, sleep deprived, and everyday I felt was a new onslaught on my immune system. And like I said, I’ve been slogging through the mud for the past seven or eight years. I’ve had times I isolated myself to “perfect” my diet. I’ve tried every diet out there. Not for quick weight loss, but I was truly desperate enough if something did work, I’d commit to it. Forever. I’d sometimes start a new way of eating and see some short term success. But over time the five to eight pounds I’d lose would stall, then slowly come back. And when I’d abandon that diet out of frustration, I’d gain back even more. I’ve gained forty-five pounds slowly over these past seven years. A combination of being hungry, having limited ability to workout, and probably diet hopping. Of course, all of this is interspersed with falling off the wagon all together, out of frustration.

I’ve gone paleo, primal, ketogenic, generic low-carb, low-carb keto, autoimmune protocol, Wahls protocol, GAPS, juicing, raw food, intermittent fasting, macros, increased fiber, increased protein, and probably three or four others. And I didn’t go halfway on any of these. I was all in.

My friends and family have probably labeled me as “that friend.”

And, honestly, even with super short term success in weight loss (probably mostly water weight), I NEVER felt better. I kept thinking the right diet, and boom, I’d feel better and everything would come together. But I just couldn’t find the right diet. And people are all, “You’re getting older, you feel more tired when you’re old.” Or, “There’s no quick fix!” When, clearly, six years in, that’s not what I was trying to do. I was frustrated, desperate, hungry, and tired.

Who would have known one blood test could make an overnight difference? On Black Friday I splurged on a food sensitivity test from EverlyWell (I’m not getting paid for this), and I spent a week trying to eat everything on the list of 96 foods. Their site suggested it needed to have been eaten in the last month, so I tried to get two servings of all of the foods I didn’t eat regularly.

Then I took the test and mailed it off. Over the next four days I repeatedly told myself, no matter what the test said, no matter how hard to swallow, I was changing my diet around it. No excuses, no explaining away, no validating why I could NOT change something. Friends asked me what I expected to see, or what my worst case would be, and I said, “I’ll have to give up pizza and Coke Zero.” That meant cheese, wheat or gluten and cola were at the top of my list.

In the week leading up to the test when I was trying to eat all of the foods on the list, my coworkers would get excited with how creative I’d get to try to eat several foods at once, one day splurging on sushi, another making my own salad and getting a smoothie at a smoothie place I never visit. By the end of that week, I had a terrible headache, felt tired, my eyes were watery and itchy, and I knew I was eating foods my body didn’t like. I was excited for the results, and also had my eyes open to how UN-varied my diet was. It was an exciting challenge to try to eat so many different foods. I realized no matter what the results said, there were so many foods to eat!

I mailed off my test on Monday, it was marked as received in Wednesday, and Friday morning I got my results. Dairy and wheat/gluten were at the top of my list. But cola wasn’t! So 2 for 3, but I still had my diet pop (please don’t lecture me, in the pasts even years, I’ve eliminated diet pop twice, once for six months, and I didn’t feel any different). And I had ALL of these foods I don’t eat often enough. Also high on my list were mushrooms and chia (which I had for lunch near the end of the week) and shellfish (lobster and crab were in my sushi the day before). I also had coconut at the top of my list – that explains why paleo and anything low-carb or coconut oil-worshipping never worked!

The biggest changes were going to be dairy and wheat/gluten. Cheese has been my favorite food all of my life. I eat it daily, if not multiple times a day. I felt daunted, but jumped right in. I couldn’t have cheese or bread, but I could have potatoes. I got a burger, with grilled onions (ok), avocado (ok), lettuce and tomato (both ok). And a side of fries (ok). I felt great that afternoon. I was able to focus on a project, and felt like I had a lot of energy. This was also near the end of the semester, so that, being a Friday, and who knows about hormones. I don’t even know if it’s normal to feel better that quickly. But the point was, this wasn’t so bad, I felt good, and even got to have a banana and some almond butter (both ok) for a snack. I hardly ever have potatoes or bananas!

That weekend I shopped for some cheese alternatives, but honestly, I didn’t miss cheese that much. I had already avoided bread , so gluten/wheat wasn’t a big deal for bread or pasta, but maybe in other items. However, the grocery store was full of possibilities, including some things I’d been avoiding unnecessarily – rice, peppers, tomatoes, etc. I also found myself substituting avocado for dairy. And bought some egg-free mayo as another creamy option, though I still haven’t opened the jar.

One side note: I do think my post-exercise fatigue, the really debilitating next day fatigue, was iron-related. And in the past two months I’d found an iron supplement that worked and I could take twice a day rather than twice a week. However, now with this general uptick in energy, I was looking forward to working out! And I was shocked to jump right in with hour long workouts, including weights and cardio. I of course had some endurance issues, but the blah-tireds I used to feel weren’t there. And I was able to go longer than fifteen or twenty minutes. It felt like a Christmas miracle.

Into the next week I found the next surprise: I wasn’t hungry all the time. I was eating about three meals a day, maybe one small snack in the afternoon. I still didn’t miss dairy, which was a huge surprise.

I’d also been stalled out at the same weight for about six months, and couldn’t get it to budge. After only two weeks post diet change and adding 3-4 workouts per week, I’m down four pounds! Part of me keeps thinking another show will drop, but it hasn’t. Yet. I did have a day of weakness where is had some gluten/wheat and dairy. I didn’t notice a difference that day, or even the next during the day. But that night when I went to workout, that old feeling of it being a huge struggle was back. I dragged myself through about 25 minutes and called it a day. The next day I was ravenous. But I drank a lot of water and didn’t fall off the wagon despite the unrelenting cravings. And now, two days later, I feel GREAT again!

I think there were variations of each diet that worked, but there were things throwing me off. Namely, coconut products. When I did paleo the first time, coconut oil was touted as a super food, one EVERYONE should consume. And I bought into it. Even when I’d feel blah after consuming them, I’d buy the “that’s die off” excuse others were feeding me. I also had a lot of mushroom stuff. Not intentionally, but maybe added into foods. Maybe stuffed mushrooms, or mushrooms in a stir fry or as a topping on something. And of course the regular dairy, and somewhat frequent wheat/gluten. And not to mention sushi once or twice a month with some shrimp or crab thrown in. Those dosing of the foods high in my list wasn’t constant (except for cheese!), but one shift away from something shifted me to something else. In the case of coconut, something my body liked less.

That’s probably why I had constant low grade fatigue and semi-regular headaches. And why I was ALWAYS hungry.

Right now I feel hopeful this is the answer for me. I’m back to doing a Firm workouts. After the new year, I’ll start counting calories (not restricting or limiting, just counting to see where I land), and watching my carb intake to keep it under 40g per meal. I’m not sure what I’ll do long term. Will the way I feel keep me from eating these foods permanently? Will I want to eat them for special occasions and suffer the next day or two day hangover? I’m not sure. For now, I’m going one day at a time. And I’m excited for the future!

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