Why me? It’s not fair. How did this happen? For 1 in 5 American’s suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), these are common thoughts and questions that cross the mind. Maybe after a weekend of eating out and enjoying food with friends and family suddenly, cramping, bloating, and discomfort takes over the gut and all you can do is curl up and wait until it passes.
Most of my life I was blessed to eat anything I wanted – I joke that I grew up on Ramen noodles, Pop-tarts, and a lot of chicken casseroles (including broccoli and cauliflower!).
Then came 2012
For 7 years prior to 2012, I was practicing a flexitarian diet, which for me included eating mostly plant-based foods such beans, tofu, peanut butter, and I even started eating lentils. Unfortunately, in November 2012 I contracted a stomach virus. It included a lot of pain and bloating for about five weeks and I lost weight, which at my size was not healthy. When that was over I tried to resume my normal diet. This consisted of salads, plenty of broccoli, apples, and other delicious colorful foods. The problem was some of those same symptoms I had during the virus stated to crop up unexpectedly in the middle of the day or after dinner. More pain. More bloating. But no more virus. I spoke with a good friend (also a dietitian) who recommended I look at eliminating the FODMAP foods – stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. For anyone unfamiliar these are foods that have a particular kind of naturally occurring sugar, which are linked to some cases of IBS. She was right! When I stopped eating apples I stopped feeling awful after lunch, at least for a little while. Then by May 2016 while traveling up to Michigan to see my honey I hit a wall (not literally!), but I got fed up with feeling awful. I decided it was time to find out once and for all what was causing my gut issues. I went on an anti-inflammatory elimination diet. These come in all shapes and sizes – I gave up many common culprits including grains, dairy, fermented foods, and legumes. Gasp! At this point you might be thinking “what did you eat?!” For anyone that has done a Whole30 you know that fruits, vegetables, and meat/seafood become the bulk of what you are consuming. During that time, I discovered almond butter isn’t so bad and coconut flour is very versatile and delicious. Otherwise, I started to recognize and address my emotional relationship with food. Turns out, a lot of IBS symptoms are heavily influenced by the gut-brain connection and can be affected heavily by stress and hormones.
So many pity parties
During the first elimination I only committed to 21 days because I knew it was going to be challenging. I learned a lot about my habits, but I did it didn’t give me any conclusive information about what was causing my symptoms. Luckily, my lovely brilliant business partner, Kristen Norton, introduced me to MRT or mediator release testing option, which I did in February 2017. This blood test shows the inflammatory response your body has to 170 foods/chemicals. The test revealed some surprising information, which lead to a significant change in my diet and lifestyle for the next 18 months (and counting). In the beginning, when I first got my results I cut down to eating from a list of 30 approved non-inflammatory foods. Considering on average we consume 700 to 1000 foods and chemicals each week this was a very creative time for me. Who knew all the different ways you could prepare rice, sweet potatoes, tilapia, and carrots?
After the MRT results I was informed that alcohol is a huge trigger for IBS symptoms or flare-ups and was advised to stop drinking at least for the first month. Oh, the pity parties. I quickly learned that Friday was a huge trigger for having an alcoholic beverage. I kid you not, it wasn’t until October 13, 2017 that I was finally journaled my first Friday in 8 months that I didn’t crave an adult beverage on Friday night. I promise I don’t have a drinking problem, it was a groove in my brain (aka habit) formed starting in college and apparently became a way of life for the following decade. Not to mention, some of my other favorites I needed to stop eating like lettuce, soy-products, and Duke’s mayonnaise (darn paprika and lemon juice). I cried a lot those first several weeks. Yet, I was finally able to truly empathize with my clients who are doing even harder things in the name of their health and well-being.
What’s the lesson?
While this is still a hard subject for me to talk about, I feel so much better now than I did when I was eating in a way that wasn’t serving my body. Our mission at Well Balanced Nutrition is teach, empower, and connect women that want to feel confident in their food choices and bodies. My body was telling me that my old flexitarian diet was no longer serving me. Our bodies are talking to us all the time. The trick is learning to tune in, listen with compassion, and sometimes swim against the stream to make changes necessary feel our best.
Food for thought
What is your body telling you? The first step is tuning in. Next, I encourage everyone to spend time thinking about what better feels like. How will your life change when you feel better?
Lastly, you don’t have to do this alone. We can help.
Revised: Monday, July 31, 2017
“You cannot manage that which you do not measure.”
As dietitians, Kristen and I are big advocates of food journals. I know, I know… Oh, here it comes. This request is often scoffed at when brought up; however, a recent literature review suggests that self-monitoring is the cornerstone of behavioral weight-loss treatment. What’s more, is recognizing that keeping a food journal does not guarantee change; however, having a coach that is also keeping track of your progress can improve outcomes dramatically.
I sometimes ask clients to keep track of everything that’s going in – including food and beverages – before an initial assessment or follow-up. Similar to the doctor asking for blood samples, it is essential for a dietitian to know about your food habits. In reviewing our top posts about tracking, I discovered that every one of our #TransformationTuesday stories, such as “It’s a Journey, Latoyia’s Baby Steps are Paying off,” include some form of self-monitoring.
The good news is, keeping a food journal is not only easy and one of the most effective means of behavior change. It’s also a great way to keep yourself on track. You don’t have to be precise. Just be consistent. Try it! You might like it :-).
And MORE good news! We are now offering the Healthy Habit Tracker for a FREE 1-month trial when you sign-up in August. This handy tool is powered by Healthie, offering:
- EASY: No calories or points to worry about here. Simply snap a photo of your meals and snacks.
- ACCOUNTABILITY: Both you and your dietitian can see your entries which can keep you accountable.
- FEEDBACK: Get frequent feedback and non-judgemental advice from Well Balanced Nutrition dietitians
- FUN: take a healthy selfie (aka a Healthie!), track your workouts, rate your hunger and track your metrics so you can see how far you’ve come.
Monday, June 26, 2017
Growing up, my mom always called me her “journey girl.” Then I got to college and had to get to class, keep up with the other hyperactive dietetic students, and juggle school work with an active social life (good ol’ University of Dayton memories). For a while, life became less about the journey and more about getting to my next destination.
Thankfully, in 2014, I got a message from the universe – God – that it was time to get back to my roots. Over the past couple years, Kristen and I have brought you different methods of mindfulness, especially mindful eating techniques. Today I want to share an example of how learning to love the journey will help you be happier and healthier.
The worry effect
I have a friend, we will call Wendy, who lives life little bit like Rabbit from the cartoon Winnie the Pooh. Wendy is constantly talking about all of the many stressful parts of her life such as being a nanny to her 2 young nieces, keeping up with the projects she has promised to her friends, and worrying about what is going on at the White House. I get it! There is plenty in this world to worry about. However, Wendy wants to be healthier, happier, and lighter. She noticed while traveling and taking a 6-week respite from the nannying job that she did not restrict her eating (and enjoyed some “high test beer”) yet she lost 2 pounds on her vacation. Wendy found when she incorporated joyful movement, such as walking to enjoy the sites and scenery it no longer felt like dreaded exercise. And when she mindfully enjoyed small tastes of the local foods and beverages she did not overindulge. On vacation, Wendy was present, peaceful, and making mindful decisions, which helped her mind and body relax. When we are under stress our bodies secrete cortisol and adrenaline, which we term a fight-or-flight response. At the same time, decreasing the output of human growth hormone, which is responsible for stimulating growth and cell reproduction. If you live in a constant state of worry or stress it is likely your body is perpetually in a fight-or-flight response hormonally. In fight-or-flight, the body responds by increasing blood pressure and glucose (sugar in the blood), while decreasing the immune system.
Food for thought
If you can relate to Wendy’s story, and you are ready to start enjoying your journey, the first step is to take a moment to reflect and identify your own fears, worries, negative thoughts, and stressors.
Next step, as my wise Uncle Ron recommends we need to ask, what’s in my control to change and what do I need to let go? Aside from talking to your local representatives, there is not much you can do about the situation in Washington DC. If you find your habit is to listen to the news or read the headlines first thing in the morning, only to spend the day worrying about all that bad news, perhaps you can let that go or choose to read those updates less frequently.
Lastly, let’s make it a priority to include activities in our lives that will make us feel happy and better cope with the circumstances we cannot change. As we know from all the safety training on the airplanes, it is vital that you put on your own oxygen mask first. What’s one thing you can add to your morning routine or day that will feel good and inspire you to make other choices that feel good? Tell us in the comments below to share a bit of inspiration and happy habit ideas!
Cathy Passeun, aka Mama Cathy, is an inspirational woman. When we lived in Arizona she frequently climbed Shaw butte – A solid 3 mile hike uphill in the desert. When I was in middle school she went to grad school and completed a masters degree. When I was in high school she chose self-employment to have more freedom in her schedule and spend quality time with her teenage daughter (brave, right?!). She has bought and sold houses and investment property. She teaches yoga and stays actively involved in her church as a believer in Jesus Christ. The word you are looking for is multifaceted.
When my mom got above her desired weight range earlier this year she became motivated to get it in check, and lucky enough she has a dietitian daughter.
Mama Cathy is preoccupied with knowing how long it takes her to do certain tasks. For instance, she discovered it takes 7 minutes to empty the dishwasher – now when she’s contemplating if there is enough time she knows it’s just 7 minutes. Recently, in an effort to include more energy during the day my mom started including a whole grain English muffin and a microwave scrambled egg at breakfast (did you know this is a thing?!). One day, for fun she timed how long it took to prepare and eat this meal, which she discovered totaled 16 minutes – 3 minutes to cook and 13 to eat. Now she knows how to (1) make a simple, healthy and well-balanced breakfast and (2) block time for breakfast, which is important for her weight-loss goals. (see note from Mama Cathy below!)
I’m not trying to call her out; however, my mom is no stranger to fast food restaurants. As a busy executive for JDRF she is often on the road for business. Going to a sit-down restaurant is not always an option so occasionally Wendy’s, Taco Bell or aother drive-thru comes in handy. Last week while running around town, Mom realized she forgot to eat breakfast before leaving home. While driving by McDonald’s she noticed a grocery store in the same shopping center and passed the drive-thru to go pick up hard-boiled eggs and an apple to give her the protein and complex carbohydrates for energy to last through the morning.
For as long as I remember my mom has always been a walker, but in more recent years I’ve discovered she loves taking classes. Forever a student, she enjoys the community and encouragement in the group fitness setting. Now Mom signs up for water aerobics at the community center and looks forward to her workout and whirlpool time every Monday and Wednesday evening.
I’m so proud of my mom for many reasons, but this year I am especially proud of the commitment she made to her health. She inspires me and I hope has inspired you too!
Food for thought:
It can be overwhelming when you try to change your diet and lifestyle. Fortunately, you are part of the Well-Balanced Tribe who wants to encourage and support your healthy choices.
What is 1 day-to-day habit you can work on this week? ___________________________
How can you make it fun (like combining exercise with the whirlpool fun!)?
Note from Mama Cathy: 2 thoughts – breakfast takes 16 minutes because I’m also making a fresh made shake that I put in a travel mug and take to work with me. While I’m cooking my breakfast I’m also making my midmorning healthy snack. Also, just so folks know change can take a while-it took me six months of being on Weight Watchers to get to this point with my food.
It didn’t happen all at once it and it certainly doesn’t happen quickly and it doesn’t happen in the span of an hour show. It’s something where I believe little changes incorporated overtime are really what add up to the difference.
Back in July, I challenged my friend Ireatha Warren to complete a whole30 challenge with me. It is not an easy challenge so naturally, it took her some time to warm up to the idea. At first, she questioned her ability to do it. Then, she realized that it was a matter of mindset. “I stopped doubting myself and just started saying I can do this.”
Once she made her mind up, she was all in. For 30 days Ireatha made significant changes to what she ate and drank and she found it to be a powerful experience. She switched out her normal breakfast (oatmeal, cereal or a ham and egg biscuit) with 2 boiled eggs and 2 pieces of bacon. She swapped out starchy snacks like popcorn and granola bars for things like nuts and fruit. One of the hardest parts for Ireatha? She said it was giving up the fried chicken but she enjoyed baked chicken as long as it was seasoned well.
I am so proud of my friend for completing the challenge with me. She lost weight, has more energy, and receives a ton of compliments now. She is another great example that believing in ourselves can play a major role in our success.
Keeping a positive mindset and getting started is one thing. Making a smooth transition and navigating back to more liberal ways can be a whole different struggle. Once the challenge is over you don’t want to just fall back into all your old ways, yet you desire a little more freedom after being so strict. How do you do it? I loved Ireatha’s thoughts: “I asked myself what are three things that I can take away from this experience and apply to my life after the challenge.” She went on to explain which changes seemed to make the biggest impact and therefore made the most sense to keep doing.
- Breakfast: She realized how important eating a good breakfast was for her. She feels her best when she eats protein-rich foods in the morning like eggs and chicken. She found that it decreased her need to snack in the afternoon and that she was able to eat a smaller dinner.
- Reading labels: She learned to pay attention to ALL parts of the food label and not just how many grams of sugar a food contains.
- Fruits and vegetables: “When you eat enough fruits and vegetables you really do feel better, and you don’t need extra snacks.” she said.
I think we can also learn from her insight on how to proceed after you finish a challenge: stick with 3 things that made a big impact.
Food For Thought and a little homework:
The whole30 challenge is eye opening, but you don’t always need to go to such extremes to learn things about yourself or improve your eating habits.
What areas in your life would benefit from a positive mindset?
List three things that you’ve learned about your body and the nutrition it needs through previous experiences. Perhaps you can start by completing this sentence. I feel my best when…