Quite frankly, I’m beginning to expect change.
The way my life seems to be running recently, I should be a “adaptability” pro. I always thought I was decent at adapting and finding solutions. But I can’t lie, its been pretty tough to adapt to the continued changes in my life. Believe it or not, I’m not talking about moving, or adjusting to new friend groups, or even road trips. I’m talking about health challenges.
Two days ago I received an email from my doctor that started out with “but you’re probably not going to appreciate my feedback”. You know there’s something up when you read those words from a doctor. I braced myself for the news and to be honest, I wasn’t surprised by her words. I was pretty disappointed though.
The last month I had been doing pretty well with all the health challenges. I got off my recently discovered allergens (beef, eggs, pineapple, beans, green beans etc). I established a new routine. I was doing really well. Physically my energy was returning somewhat nicely. But I emailed my doctor because the bloating, inflammation, and abdominal comfort continued with a vengeance. I had sent her a log of my diet, asking for suggestions. Low and behold, she had a thing or two to say.
Apparently my joyous experience with SIBO is continuing strong due to the sugar in my diet. Now let me preface that the amounts of sugar I had been eating were on average less than 25 grams per day, including fruits and veggies, and anything else I might consume. I had been really careful to go very low with my sugar intake, but apparently, my doctor thinks its not enough.
In her words, my further healing will be halted unless I cut sugar out of my diet completely. She didn’t mean just sugar. She meant anything that the body uses to turn into sugar: All grains. Fruit. High sugar veggies. And also fake sugars like splenda or stevia.
I stared at her words and my heart sank. Another huge lifestyle adjustment ahead. My usual morning Green Smoothie / Protein shake with just 1/2 blueberries and only 3grams of sugar? Out. My morning sugar free almond latte? Out. A quick “Kind Bar” when in a pinch on the road? Out. I know these things seem so small, but they were staples that I had worked into my routine. It’s not so much that sugar must be eliminated; It’s the idea that the things I’ve worked into my life – the replacements of replacements – now must go.
SIBO feeds off sugar. But when it gets really low amounts of sugar, it goes dormant, using the little sugar in the system to just survive even if it doesn’t flare up. In order to get rid of it, I literally have to starve my system entirely of sugar. Otherwise it will remain in my system, and could flare up again later.
Even still, with this news I know that the Lord is working in my soul, because I don’t feel the intensity of disappointment that I would have felt two months ago. The only intense thing I feel is the possibility that I could go to such extreme lengths and have this not even bring about the desired outcome. It takes so much work to live when you have these kind of conditions. Most people don’t remotely understand what it takes.
About 10 minutes after the email, my mind went to a very health place. I thought: Yes, I was disappointed but the practical side is what I felt stress from. I needed a plan. If I have a plan, I will have food. If I have food, I won’t cheat. If I don’t cheat, I will feel empowered. If I feel empowered, I will settle into a routine without too much emotional chaos. No, it’s not easy. Yes, it takes a boatload of work. But for all my adapting I think I have finally found a process that will help me get past the Dietary LifeStyle changes without feeling like my life is falling apart.
1. Realize the situation i.s. a big deal. You will have people tell you that food shouldn’t control your life. You will feel like, if you are fully functioning, can walk, talk, breathe, and live on your own, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Truth is, in this kind of transition, food d.o.e.s. control your life to a degree. For example, having these limitations and being on the road is next to impossible to manage. The amount of mental and physical stress that is caused from having to wonder where you are eating, if they have something that won’t make you sick, or what store can facilitate some organic produce or uncultured meat – those are no joke questions to face every.single.time. you need to eat. With the new changes in my diet, my husband and I are contemplating canceling our great summer road trip – simply because my food lifestyle requires a great deal of planning, and prep, and work.
On the flip side of this, I have friends who have similar conditions to myself, but they have a lifestyle of travel. And they struggle because the two conflict at every single turn. These lifestyles are a BIG DEAL. Acknowledge it and give yourself some grace.
2. Keep It Simple. Now is not the time to find the most culinary adventurous recipes to implement every single night. That’ll cost you an arm and a leg, and produce extra stress – especially when a recipe doesn’t turn out (and trust me, on these diets there are plenty that don’t). You need to think through individual foods you can eat, and then which of those foods work well together.
For example: I love deli turkey with tomato and avocado. I literally smile when I eat that. Simple. Satisfying. I know that if I find a health food store, I can get those things and be ok. These are the things that aren’t gourmet. They aren’t exciting. But they get the job done and I don’t feel like I’m signing away my life to make it, or my pocketbook to pay for it.
3. Realize you eat for energy first and for most. Anything else is an added plus. Phillip is the most laid back eater I’ve ever met. Of course, he has foods he really likes, and food on his favorites list (sushi, sushi, and more sushi); But he will literally eat anything. I didn’t understand this right away, so he had to explain. In his mind, anything that wasn’t an MRE was great. If it had nutrition and substance, he was down. It was that simple. This is one of the most difficult transitions I know. But in my experience it’s the only way to get away from the mindset of what you “can’t eat” to being grateful for what you can.
4. Create a Daily plan and Menu. Above all, make a plan. If you don’t, you will fall. Plain and simple. Ask yourself questions like this: What meats do you like best? What ways can you cook them that are simple and not crazy time consuming? What veggies go well with those meats? What combinations of veggies do you find satisfying? I personally love sautéd mushrooms and onions. If I have those two things with any combination of meat, I’m good. I can’t do food on the fly right now. It doesn’t work. A weekly menu overwhelmed me, so I just create a day by day plan. Sunday night I plan for Monday. Monday night I plan for Tuesday. etc. This eliminates the stress that comes from wondering “what is my next meal”?
5. Do your prep work: Remember the health food stores that have pre-made fresh food in the refrigerated section? Why do we like those? Because when you pick them up out of that fridge, all you need to do is eat it. Doesn’t get any more simple. When you have a full work schedule, you need the ease of that, otherwise no good will come. Nothing feels better than when I’m in between appointments and can reach in the fridge to pull out my quick already made lunch, waiting for me to eat it. You need that. (Check out this incredible post for a detailed walk through of Food Prep)
6. Set up Accountability. I have two friends who play this role in my life – outside my honey of course. My friend Hannah has seen pretty much every health and physical experience under the sun, so when it comes to working through the emotional issues tied to my food lifestyle, she’s the one I call. She helps me know I’m not alone. And when I know I’m not alone, I feel stronger. When I feel stronger, I much less likely to succumb to depression or temptation.
My other friend is the one I text when I fall of the wagon. Kristi is a gem of gems. With similar dietary lifestyle necessities, she knows how I feel when I text her that I just ate something I shouldn’t. The way God works it, half the time we both fell off the wagon on the same day so we can acknowledge our indiscretion, and laugh about it. Then we encourage each other to get back on the wagon, and we know we are getting on together.
7. Find Support. My family is incredible. My mother – a sort of Jedi Master when it comes to food and all things kitchen – trained my sisters to be culinary masters themselves. (She tried to teach me but I gravitated to baking. Defintely should have stayed with cooking). When my sisters and Mom found out the news all they wanted to do was hunt for recipes that would be aligned with my new specifications, but still be delicious. I am so grateful for this. Sometimes having support rather than figuring it all out on your own can be the difference between feeling like you can handle it vs. being caught in a downward spiral of depression.
Finally, the biggest lesson I am learning about this adaption process is the importance of taking things day by day. To be honest, I can’t think about living this way for 3 days, let alone 3 months. It’s beyond overwhelming. But Jesus tells me that my heavenly Father knows my needs before I do. Jesus tells me that I don’t need to worry about tomorrow. Jesus tells me that all I need to do in these times is cast my burdens on Him. I can’t carry these issues and the repercussions to my lifestyle. But He can. And He will.
And I am so beyond grateful for that.
[Do you have experience with dietary changes? Comment below with what works for you! Encouraged by this article? Share it on Facebook! Know someone who needs to read this? Forward on here – you never know the difference it may make in the life of someone going through a similar experience!]