If you follow on Instagram you may have heard me say that I did a 21-Day Vegan Program this summer–along with the promise of a forthcoming post.
I didn’t wake up, one morning and decide that I wanted to be Vegan. Like many of you, I’m searching. I’m searching for a way to eat that agrees with my body.
I’ve had my share of health issues in recent years. Chronic stress and a horrible allergic reaction (which caused acute liver injury) — both doing a number on my gut. I’ve been to a slew of doctors (including one of the top hospitals in the country), spending a lot of money trying to figure out exactly what the problem is. On top of stomach disturbances, I was also breaking out in chronic hives.
Last year, it was so bad that the hives were welting and I was having to take an antihistamine almost daily (which is how one Dr. told me to treat my issue). I wasn’t satisfied with that temporary relief (which wasn’t much relief at all). I wanted to get to the root. Finally, I ended up at an Integrative Doctor where they tested me, among other things, for something called SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth). I didn’t pay much attention to the tests that were ordered–I was just interested to understand what was causing my horrible hives. I didn’t want to have to take Zyrtec every day and honestly, it was becoming somewhat debilitating–I would be in tears because the itching was so bad. It was one thing when it was my legs or stomach, but as it worsened my face was blotchy and itching.
The test for SIBO (A Lactulose Breath test) came back positive. This “could be” the reason for your hives,” I was told. “How did I get SIBO?,” I asked (I’ve always been healthy and tried to take care of my body). The answer was that many times it’s caused by antibiotics and/or stress. Check. Check.
One of the treatments is an antibiotic and a very strict diet. When I received the news, it was weeks before my book came out and right after we moved houses (which was pretty emotional for me). I was not in a good place, stress-wise. I knew I couldn’t adhere to a crazy strict diet for two months with travel, etc.–and– I’m pretty much terrified of antibiotics, after my experience.
So, I went home and did nothing–except eat anything and everything because I figured that soon enough I’d be on a diet of meat and a few select fruits and vegetables.
Although I couldn’t bring myself to study SIBO at all, (I was angry and upset about it all), I eventually began seeking a few basics and allowing what needs to be found to find me (this is often the way I read, for growth, for leisure). I am in no way a fan of being a Google Doctor or reading anyone and everyone’s opinions (which makes me leary to even share my story at this point). I find the internet to be a scary place when it comes to health-related information. I know myself well enough and I have no desire to add further stress to my life.
What I have concluded over years of simply “paying attention” is that it seems that most individuals suffering from auto-immune (SIBO is not auto-immune, by the way), digestive issues or chronic health issues either eat one of two ways: Plant-Based or Paleo. Both finding success in reducing symptoms and flare-ups.
“Try Whole-30!” everyone has told me. I don’t eat eggs (other than in baked foods) and the idea of eating that much meat (I don’t have an aversion to meat. In fact, I like it–I’m from the Midwest, after all) tripped me up (and of course no chocolate for 30 days).
For me, it seemed easier to give up meat than to eat too much of it. And anyway, I’ve always believed a mostly Plant-Based diet is the healthiest. I felt attracted to trying that way, first.
At just the right time, when I was feeling extremely down (and poorly physically) I came across a program that Kris Carr was offering, Crazy Sexy You (While the name of the program didn’t draw me in, the positivity and Kris’s story did).
It was a 21-day live program (which seemed more do-able than 30 days to me), meaning that other’s all over the world were doing the program at the exact same time I was and there was support and community. The (paid) program also offered extensive meal plans, shopping lists, a Facebook group, access to dieticians and support, a variety of workout videos and meditations, weekly calls, daily posts and tons of encouragement. The promise of feeling great and creating new positive habits along with the bonus of my daughter Ella agreeing to do the program with me sold me.
In general, we gave up refined sugar, gluten, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, eggs, corn and processed foods. Twice a day we had a homemade green juice or smoothie, three-home cooked meals (lunch was always leftovers from the prior night’s dinner), snacks if needed and even dessert. I was never hungry, only tired from all of the prep.
The first week the body is detoxing. I found it to be a very gentle one. I was surprised to find I didn’t have many symptoms. However, I don’t eat much gluten, dairy or caffeine. I figured sugar would get me but was delighted to discover that I really hadn’t been consuming that much-refined sugar.
My main concern with eating entirely plant-based was eating so many beans and cruciferous vegetables.
And, I found that my concern was valid. I did have a hard time digesting those things.
I waited to get a surge of energy that was expected by the second week or so, and for me, I just didn’t have it. Could it be that I was working extra hard, overtime in the kitchen non-stop, making separate meals, also, for those not doing the plan? Working out more and harder than I usually do? My body working extra hard to digest too much fiber? Or could it be that my body really needs more protein, iron (I cut the beans out once I knew I was having trouble digesting and my body felt lighter in general once omitting)? I found myself craving the smoothie I made almost daily, prior to the program, which contained Collagen Peptides.
My body was speaking to me. This program had allowed me the space to begin to really listen.
At the beginning of the program, we set an intention. We had to have a “Why.” I needed to lose some extra weight (and I did lose around 4 pounds, along with a few inches). What I truly needed was to return to being mindful of food and eating. I’ve always been an emotional eater (I think we all are, really). Bad day? I instantly crave McDonald’s fries (I know why…my mom would take us there after the dentist or a bad day). Sad? I need chocolate–NOW. The truth I was ready to face was that I was using food, more regularly, to cope with–to distract me–from emotions I couldn’t or didn’t want to face.
This program didn’t exclude chocolate (Thank you, Dear Lord). They actually recommended my favorite chocolate bar as an approved chocolate choice. However, now, I wasn’t eating it when I was having feelings of sadness or overwhelmed with stress (and there was an extremely stressful situation I found myself in during this time–interestingly enough I got crazy hives that day), rather I simply ate a few squares of dark chocolate for dessert. When the bad feelings came, and they did strongly, without having a way to shut them down, I chose, instead to face them–to do a meditation and focus on my breathing and gratitude. I sat with my feelings and learned to speak more positively about myself and gracefully to myself. I also learned to really say “Thank you” to my body and be grateful for it, and how hard it works for me, rather than be frustrated for how I felt it had let me down.
The 21 days, for me, were far more an emotional experience than physical. But really, the two are so interconnected–there is no separation.
A few takeaways from my journey
*There is no one diet that works for everyone. I’d like to tick a box. Pick a plan. Plant-Based. Paleo. Keto. Whole-30. Gundry. Yet, everyone’s body is unique and different (even if we have the same diagnosis) and responds differetly to different foods and exercises. These diets, however, can help us to hear our bodies better and respond accordingly.
*Listen to your gut–literally and figuratively. What is your body telling you?. If you eat something and it bothers you, there is probably a reason. If you are drawn to a certain type of workout, there is likely a reason why.
*Progress not Pefection. These 3 words help set me free. I didn’t have to be perfect, I just needed to have progress. If I messed up, I didn’t have to start over–I just had to keep going. For someone who is a recovering perfectionist, often frozen before trying for fear of “not getting it right,” these three words have really brought about a lot of change for me.
I’m in no place to tell you what or what not to do when it comes to digestion issues–I’m still a student. I can, however, tell you . . .
What I’m finding is bothering me at this point:
-Beans (Again this is so specific. Garbanzo’s don’t bother me much. Black beans do. A friend who has the same thing as me is the exact opposite.)
-Cruciferous vegetables (I’ve been reading how raw veggies are hard to digest, thus if you have digestion issues- SIBO, IBS, etc. then steamed veg is much easier to digest)
-Too much fiber
-Too much meat (fruit after meat)
-Overly processed foods
-Gluten (Other than real sourdough–I don’t notice an immediate reaction to gluten but my joints bother me from time to time).
Things I’m incorporating:
-Celery juice on an empty stomach (I find some green juices hard on my stomach-likely too much fiber. It helps to peel before I juice if using fruits or veg with a skin. Celery, I’ve heard, is technically an herb–I find it soothing some days).
-More smoothies (liquid is easy to digest). I make a version of this smoothie almost daily.
-Digestive Enzymes (I’m just starting some new ones, but my friend Celery and the City recommends some great ones)
-Not eating before bed
-No liquid (certainly not cold liquids) while eating-another tip from Celery and the City
-Walking, moving my body
-As natural of food as possible (The fewer the ingredients the better)
-Mangos and bananas (another thing my body seems to be craving)
*I usually take a Probiotic but have taken a break. I want to make sure I’m taking the right one for my digestive system.
I’m still on my healthy journey (I wish there was a better way of saying this because it sounds like I’m selling something). My gut has healing to do. I’m simply listening and learning and trying. I’m so grateful for people sharing their experiences and offering information that has worked for them. A few accounts on Instagram that have helped me as it pertains to digestion and health are:
If you are still reading- woah! Thank you! I’d love to hear from you–please, however, try to keep comments positive.
xo . Trina
PS- I’m back to eating meat (I try for grass-fed, organic or wild fish) as my body craves it. I don’t need or want it at every meal and not necessarily every day. Again, I’m listening to my body.
Also, I loved Kris Carr’s program. The staff was encouraging and supportive. I was very amazed at the overall excellence, the support, and the takeaways. I learned SO much and I have a ton of recipes that I’ll continue to use. I wouldn’t doubt if I did the program again at some point (there were so many alumni in the program). Not sponsored, just recommended. :)