As a NASM certified nutrition coach, my first thought when I sit down to write a health and wellness blog post is: FOOD!
It’s a driving series of thoughts in my day-to-day life, and I would venture a guess that it’s similar for you.
What do I want for breakfast? Is it time for lunch? What should I make for dinner? Who ate the last piece of lasagna? Where did I put the tomatoes? Did I forget the limes… again? How do we need more bread already? Is it time for a snack?
And that’s all in a five-minute period of time at 7:16 in the morning.
As I said in my last post, getting my nutrition under control saved my life, but what I didn’t really get into in that post is the process it took for me to reach the point that I could use a phrase like “my nutrition is under control”. It was so hard. I had no real base of knowledge to pull from. It took time and patience, trial and error, and oh so many tears.
When the doctor made my official diagnosis of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), she gave me a few useful tips and then a lot of medicine. I can’t speak for her, I don’t really know what was happening in her mind as she explained what was happening in my body, but my assumption is that she was so used to people not following the nutritional advice she offered that she defaulted to the medicinal answer to my problem. I’m not saying anything bad about the medicine, it saved my life, and I’m grateful for both it and the doctor who prescribed it. However, the limited nutritional advice I was given (go on an extreme low-fat diet of no more than 25g a day, stop drinking alcohol, and if something you eat makes you feel bad stop eating it), was so vague and frustrating that I had to spend hours upon hours researching what I was and wasn’t supposed to be putting into my body.
I took to the internet, of course I was researching my condition, but mostly I was devouring recipes! Eliminate alcohol is clear enough, but an extremely low fat diet is really hard to achieve, especially in the American food culture.
25g of total fat in a day, that includes “healthy fats”, let me give you some examples of what that looks like:
- ¼ cup of cashews
- ¾ of an avocado
- 3tbsp of Natural Peanut Butter
- ½ cup of almonds
- 1 ½ tbsp of Olive Oil
- 2 pads of butter
- 4oz. of 80/20 ground beef… then add cheese and mayonnaise… cheeseburgers were out
However, by the grace of God, the selections I found at my local grocery store, and my new found ability to actually keep an intuitive food journal, I finally got to the point that I was consistently hitting that mark. I had to get inventive with my food. I had to make myself separate meals from my children (they needed those fats I couldn’t have anymore). I learned just how many uses there are for applesauce. I even make my own spicy strawberry salad dressing, I’m the only one who eats it, but it’s amazing! And it took me the better part of a year to get to that point. A year of tears and pain. A year of trial and error. A year of elimination and substitution. A year of 15 pills a day; that’s 456 pills a month… 5,475 pills total. But at the end, once I understood how my body works now, once I dedicated myself to doing what had to be done, I was able to stop the pharmaceutical regimen and food literally became my medicine.
It was a lesson I will never forget and one that has spurred me into the life and career I now have.
If this is the kind of situation you find yourself in, not necessarily EPI, but one where your entire diet needs a major overhaul, these are my words of wisdom: It takes time. It’s frustrating. It’s daunting. It’s painful. And, it’s possible. You can do this!
Also, if you want to try my spicy strawberry salad dressing, just let me know, I have recipes to share!