Subtracting by Adding

I talked yesterday about food change overwhelm, and diet fatigue relating to chronic illness. So today I want to share one of the first action steps that helped me to get unstuck. (And still helps me, if I end up stuck again).

Removing foods gets stressful over time. And it’s not healthy to just keep removing foods, especially as I was having to eliminate foods that for most people are considered very healthy. (Spinach!? High histamine. Strawberries?? High histamine). If we just keep removing foods, we lose important nutrient variety.

And sometimes, removing one more food, that is contributing to my overall inflammation, but not causing me severe emergency level reactions, felt so horribly depriving. I would put it off over and over again.

So I decided to start by adding to my plate, something I knew my body needed. Not to replace something else. Just to add something.  Sometimes it was a handful of plain lettuce. Sometimes a few pecans. Even a drizzle of a healthy oil over a food. Anything to up my nutrition.

As I increased my nutrition intake, adding to my plate, I found I sometimes ate less of the foods that were contributing to my symptoms. I didn’t crave them as much. But even if I did, I just added other healthful things to it.

If I looked at my plate, and tried to picture a balanced meal, what did I need more of? What was missing? It doesn’t matter to me, if it’s a culinary-appropriate addition, I just add it. In my coaching I call trying to balance the foods on the plate, creating the Magic Plate. Even just by adding to what is there.

If you feel stuck with making food changes your doctor is suggesting you make, have you tried to start by adding in some of the things your body needs, and see if other things possibly get subtracted as you go? It’s a win, either way as your nutrition will be improved!

The Overwhelm of Food and Illness

EDIT TO ADD: In checking the dates to begin blogging my health journey, it turns out it is exactly 4 years ago TODAY that I had my first conversation with this doctor I found who finally diagnosed me! What a coincidence I begin blogging this journey today!

For my fellow mcas sufferers, “losing foods,” is a very real fear; the list of foods your body tolerates can shrink frightfully! For my fellow spoonies, (people with chronic illness…. google “spoon theory”) special diets to help reduce symptoms are often a way of life as well.

My first special diet, an elimination prescribed by the first functional med MD I ever met, was around 2005. In three days my BP dropped to a safe range, and in a month I was off five medications. I was amazed at the power of food, and it was very motivating, and pretty easy to stay off the foods that were shown to be major health issue triggering for me (gluten and corn).

Years later, my health was spiraling again, and I tried other “healing diets” recommended to me, and found some improvement but never enough. I finally was introduced to the Autoimmune Paleo Diet by my Pilates instructor, and that made a difference. But then after a few months my reactions to foods increased, and I could not figure out why. (It turns out batch-cooking and eating leftovers all week is a no-no unless I freeze them. Leftovers are very high histamine!) Removing more and more foods from my diet was stressful, and not healthy in the long term. But I was having more and increasingly severe “allergic reactions” to things I had eaten all my life. Cashews sent me to the ER first. Sometimes I couldn’t even figure out what was causing the reactions.

Finally, in a Providential way, I ended up meeting a doctor  who knew a little (and went to great lengths to learn a lot more) about MCAS. Now the shrinking list of foods had a cause, and we began to work on stabilizing my body so that it would tolerate more foods. I eliminated high histamine foods from my list (tomato, strawberries, cheese, yogurt, and more), found some true allergens to eliminate (almonds, peanuts). This helped reduce allergic reactions, but my health was not going to be a quick fix, especially with finding Lyme/co-infections, parasites and mold illness also at play. More food changes would be required to help me heal.

Can you say overwhelming?

I was so sick, that despite having experienced radical healing from food changes in the past, knowing that making the new food changes that could help, felt like an impossible mountain to climb. With my combination of diagnoses, there was no one-size-fits-me food plan available.

So there I was, in 2017 , sicker than I had ever been, exhausted, able to work less and less, and needing to begin the healing work necessary. But without having the mental bandwidth to move forward.

No one could make these changes for me. No cookbook existed that fit my situation. I was the most sick-and-tired I had ever been.

I couldn’t do it.

I tried. I researched. I tried certain healing food plans/recipes and had severe reactions to them; crossed off more foods (ferments, broth, and other healing foods) off the list. But I couldn’t do the swift and thorough change like I had been able to do multiple times before. I had some improvement, but not enough. By this time, I had read multiple books on my diagnoses, I had even become a certified health coach. And I still felt stuck.

For a long time, I felt like a failure.

Then I decided: I would give myself grace for doing the best I could at the time. And I would do more when I could. I would work on other aspects of healing that didn’t involve food, like sleep, stress, movement, and mental health. I chose to reevaluate my thinking. I got a health coach to help me.

With my health coach the thought, “it shouldn’t be this hard for me to make these changes; I’ve done it before!” changed to: “making these kinds of changes, when no template exists, and I am so sick, IS really hard! What’s one thing I can do this week? What feels doable?” I looked at words like “should” and asked questions like “says who?!” I acknowledged how complex this healing process is, and would continue to be. I journaled, I had meltdowns about how unfair it is. I grieved. I tried some EFT. I grabbed hold of different phrases to repeat to myself to help me shift my focus, like “I don’t have to do it all today,” and “stay in the moment,” and my favorite: “let it be enough.”

Then, recently, I learned the term “diet fatigue,” applied to people with chronic health issues (as opposed to using it to describe people on the dieting merry-go-round trying to lose weight). Boy did this fit me. I was tolerating more foods finally (far fewer ER trips, less throat closing/borderline anaphylaxis reactions), and now I had to remove more? Even knowing it could make me feel physically better, psychologically and emotionally this felt like torture. “I can’t make any more food changes.”

The chronic sense of deprivation eventually had me giving up on making changes, and I was eating foods that I knew were contributing to my inflammation, could be flaring up symptoms. But if I had no severe allergic reaction to them, I ate them anyway. Took meds to compensate. All. the. time. I often ignored my newly diagnosed hyperinsulinemia. Instead of making deliberate choices about food, I was operating purely out of my emotions.

Eventually, little shifts happened. I decided to just experiment with new recipes, to be curious about how I felt when eating different foods. The ones causing me harm, I began to eat less. I started to want to eat to feel good, instead of just eating my feelings. I try to make a deliberate choice about what I’m eating (even if it will flare my symptoms), to notice why I want the food, and that I am choosing the fallout after.

It’s a journey.

And this is a long post!
So, to be continued… including recipes I have found, helpful resources and sharing the journey as I continue to experiment with how different foods make me feel. If you want to subscribe to follow along, there is a spot to the right.

If you are a fellow spoonie, have you ever hit a wall of diet fatigue? How did you cope with it?

 

 

 

 

Time…. does interesting things

Time flies when you’re having fun…..

Time heals all wounds….

Timehop became a social media thing….

A watched pot never boils… (IE focusing on the waiting makes it feel like it takes every longer)

Going through my memories-of-the-day on Facebook this morning, seeing pictures of our youngest before he came home from Haiti, something about time really struck me. This time of year, my time-hop is filled with pictures and posts about gotcha day, and memories of trips.

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting

In all of the long, nearly-5-years process, I was agonizing about all we were missing because he was not home. God really used that time to stretch and grow my faith in Him and His Timing, and what does it really mean for God to “be good to us” anyway.

And as I went through pictures of birthday parties here at home, 6 year’s worth now! And trips to Haiti, I am struck again, as I was when we went to bring him home…. that the wait did not keep us apart. We knew each other. We had time together in his country of birth. And now it was time to take him home for new memories.

When I felt like we were missing out on history together, we were making memories. It’s not what I would have wished, to be separated for so long. But these Haiti memories of him being so little fill my time-hop just like the memories of him being home do.

We have a shared history. We have memories together going back to 2 years old, when he was wearing 18 months sized clothing. I bathed him. I put diapers on him for bed. I held him when he was sick. (God is so cool, I ended up being there to nurse him back to health. Pic above). It wasn’t all here, and there were long, way too long, stretches between visits.

But now as he turns 13, right after his 6th Gotcha Day, I see even more clearly, that we don’t have only 6 years of history together. I feel thankful that we have 11 years of history.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. But hindsight is much closer to 20/20. God works all things for good, for those that are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:28)

 

Beauty

Flower, Life, Crack, Desert, Drought, Survival

 

Beauty    by Spring Gouette 

I see you wrestle through the heavy soil that holds you down

I see you parched for rain, then when it falls you fear you’ll drown

I see your shaky stem resist the wind, and bend with strain

I see your bud of beauty as you start to grow in strength

I see you shyly open up and let the whole world see

The beauty of the person He created you to be

He leads me beside still waters…

Anyone with a little Bible knowledge will know the title is a quote from Psalm 23.  Such a wonderful image right? He leads us beside still/calm waters, and restores our soul.

But as I have been studying the book of Exodus, I read how God also led his people to waters that were undrinkable. The Mara Oasis. (Exodus 15) The water at Mara was so bitter, it was undrinkable.

They had been traveling away from Egypt, now free from slavery, following a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, thirsty, tired, and to be honest, they are now in a really bad mood. The pillar of cloud and fire leads them to an oasis, only to find it  undrinkable. Undrinkable? Led, by God, to undrinkable water? When they were thirsty and tired?

The older I get, the more confident I am that God knows what He is doing, that He is sovereign, and truly is working for my good as He promises. (Romans 8:28) So I ask myself as I read this… why did God lead them to undrinkable water?

Ica, Desert, Peru, Lake, Oasis, Sand

So they would be reminded of their true  need. Him. Fixing bad water is no big deal for God. He had just completed 10 plagues in Egypt that caused the Israelites to be set free. He opened the Red Sea so they could cross, and caused it to close on their enemies. He can clean up this water.

Did God’s people stand there, expectantly waiting for God to provide? Sadly… no. They were complaining to Moses. “Why would God lead us here if the water isn’t fit to drink!?” They are tired, and thirsty, but they have also lost their perspective. Their faith is small, even after all they have seen God do on their behalf.

God tells Moses to toss a piece of nearby wood into the water and it becomes clean. God exhorts His people to follow Him, and do what He shows them is right. He calls Himself “The Lord who heals you.” Not long after, it says He led them to Elim, a place with twelve springs and seventy palm trees.

But first, He led them to Mara.

Dear Friend, don’t be tempted to complain, and fear that the Lord has forsaken if you find yourself in “Mara.” Sometimes our good God leads us to Mara to remind us of our need for Him. For the Lord who heals us. They were not physically ill. But they were sick-at-heart. They were soul-weary. And body-weary. And He led them to a place where only He could be what they needed.

And then… He brought them to Elim.

Oasis, Libya, Lake, Rest, Mirroring, Desert, Nature

Sometimes Mara can feel like a season. But remember God’s ability to provide what you need in that time. And remember He will not leave you there forever. Follow His lead. Do what is right in His eyes. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9) He sees what we don’t see. We can trust Him.

If you find yourself beside still, and bitter waters, and would like prayer, send me a note. I would honored to pray for you. <3

How’s your self-care?

Napping was hard for me! To go from a love-to-be-busy, over-achiever to someone who needed naps was tough. But I am very thankful for the lessons I have learned while learning to sit still.

Lessons like…. if I had been ok with sitting still from time to time, perhaps my body wouldn’t have crashed so hard…. and I couldn’t begin to heal until I allowed resting to be considered “doing something” in my own head.

I got so much of self-worth from what I could accomplish, that my self-care was often last. I love crossing things off a list! I love getting into bed at night with the thought of all I got done that day.

So I had to learn to redefine what “getting something done” meant. If it helps my body, mind and soul: heal, de-stress, feel better, rest, conscious breath-work, practice staying out of fight or flight, digest better, feel calmer, etc… it counts!

Things like, Epsom salt baths, naps, sitting still, propping up in bed for 30 minutes before getting up, talking to a friend, ozone therapy… these are just as important as reading to my kid, or unloading the dishwasher. And the more consistent I am at doing these things, the better mom, health coach, etc I will be. And I’ll be more able to do the other things that normally make to-do lists.

What do you do to take care of your body, soul and spirit?

Best in Health,

P.S. I am teaching the next class in my free “Let’s Talk” online series called “Let’s Talk Stress!” on Thursday, 7/23 at 7 PM ET. You can find the FB event page here.

Interested in connecting with others who are working on their health habits? You can find our new, growing FB page for The Whole You with Spring here.

Be sure to answer the questions when you request to join the group!

 

Do you Haiku?

When I am forced to sit (or lie) still for an extended time for physical recovery, I often turn to simple creativity. It both gives me a sense of accomplishment, but also a that little rush that comes from making art in some fashion. Sometimes, on “spoonie recovery days,” I write.

I suppose at “level 46,” with the amount of poetry I have written I could call myself a poet, though I have never claimed the title. But sometimes my thoughts gather themselves into rhythm and rhyme and I have to put them on paper (or screen). Today, my mind ran in the form of the haiku. I went with it.

Sometimes you have to just go with it. 😉

It’s Ok- it’s not your job…

Good morning friends,

Wow what a few months we are having, and the strain in the world seems to only increase. I was praying for a friend this week who has the added loss of a parent to bear this week, and I thought of her when I read this verse. And then I thought of myself, and all of you.

Romans 15:13 New International Version (NIV)  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

̶I̶ ̶d̶o̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶k̶n̶o̶w̶ ̶a̶b̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶, We could all use a little more peace right now. And perhaps as a Christian you feel like you should have more peace than you do.

Did you know that you don’t have to work up “joy and peace” in hard times?  The verse above says that God will fill you all joy and peace, and you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Joy and peace and hope are all described as God’s job! But you do have a role. Your job is  to work on trust.  It says this will happen “as you trust in him.”

So how do you “work on” trust?

2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV, emphasis mine)
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Psalm 46:10 (NIV, emphasis mine)
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

It’s not our job to try to work up feelings of peace. If you have tried this, you know it only works for so long. It is our job to practice taking thoughts that are full of fear captive, and to replace them with thoughts of trust. We can be sure to include in our choices of music, books, and entertainment things that will encourage our hearts to trust. May I recommend extra time in the Bible during these trying times? Extra time in prayer?

And now again: my prayer for you today 

What other verses would you add to this collection for practicing trust? Let’s create a collection; post yours in the comments!

Best,

What you wish for….

I read this article the other day, called The Happiest People Are Those Who Realized That God is enough. 

The author makes observations about what she has seen, how she longs for that they have, and she began to sum up the article with this:

“I don’t know how they got there but I know that this is the ultimate truth, this is how you enjoy your life and this is how you stay calm, strong and patient in times of pain and distress. This is how you heal.

Because once you learn that God is enough, you’ll never have to question yourself, you’ll never have to doubt yourself or your decisions. You become whole again. You become complete.

Maybe we’re all confused, hurt and sad because we still don’t know how to talk to God. We still don’t get it. We still ask for things that are wrong for us. We still hope to change our destiny. We still think he’s being too hard on us. We still think he doesn’t know what makes us happy.”

***************************************************************************

I immediately felt compelled to write a response, so I saved the article until I could take time to sit and process my thoughts. I felt compelled to write, not because I disagree, but because I wholeheartedly agree. And I felt like the author left out the most important part… how someone gets to that point.

This is really one of those “be careful what you wish for” scenarios. No one comes to the place where they know that God is enough, until they have hit such a low that God was all they had.

I was recently asked about our adoption story, and I don’t sugar coat it. I immediately talk about how hard it was, and how God changed me. A lot of those thoughts I processed in this blog post. I have been told “I wish I had your faith.” Or “I wish I had your strength.”

Well. So here is my response to those questions, and to the author:

Until you realize that God is good, even when every circumstance feels bad, you won’t find real peace. Until you realize that you can’t always tell whether something is going to be good or bad in the long run, you won’t feel real trust. Until you know that in the darkest of days, God will not let you down, that what you may wish would happen may not best… and may never make sense to you this side of heaven, happiness will elude you.

To quote my previous post:

              We do not really know what is a blessing and what is a “curse.” What if we were less focused on what these tangible things “mean?” What if we didn’t look to those things as proof that God is good?  Because if that is proof… there are a lot of believers on this planet who don’t have any proof that God is good.

I have walked through things I would never have chosen for myself or anyone else…..

      • miscarriage of my first pregnancy at 3 months
      • having to disrupt an adoption
      • an adoption that took 5 years
      • chronic illness for me and my daughters
      • medical debt I don’t know how we’ll ever get out of
      • all things and more that can strain a marriage
      • living with the affects of childhood trauma in people you love

And I have never believed in God’s goodness more than I do now. I have seen His fingerprints all over my life in so many ways… miraculous financial provision, (multiple times), a new friend come alongside in a difficult season, words from His scripture so perfectly timed, a “random” lead for a medical provider who finally finds the diagnoses, a deeper appreciation for the things that really matter, more healing… I have seen God meet my needs and those of people I love over and over again. Sometimes  I’d think it’s not how I wish it happened. But in the end, He is always good.

His love does not fail. Psalm 136

He provides for me. Matthew 6:25-34

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Have you ever wished you could read these words, and know, deep in your very being, that it is all true. I could say “Be careful what you wish for.” Or I could say, “Ask Him, and then hang on for the ride.” To know He is good, and He is all you need, you will have to live through a time where you test it, and find out it’s true. He is all you need.

Are you willing to walk through a dark valley, to find He gets you through to the other side? Are you ready to eat a meal miraculously provided by Him, in the presence of difficult times, or difficult people? Are you ready to lie still when you want so desperately to try to change things on your own? Will you sit and rest and be restored in His timing?

It’s hard. But I know God is truly all I need. And I wouldn’t trade that knowledge for anything. 

 

 

Need Sleep?

Having had four kids, I know that “sleep like a baby” sounds like false advertising. But sleep truly does seem to get trickier as we get older! As promised, here are a few “How-to” Sleep Tips for you to try, if restful sleep is eluding you these days.

Baby, Boy, Son, Child, Infant, Kid, Cute, Little, Happy

Try making your bedroom darker and or quieter

I have had seasons of life where I could sleep with the lights and tv on. But not so much anymore. For whatever reason, my natural melatonin production needs a little extra support nowadays. Darkening my room, (even blocking any light coming in under the door– I have teens who stay up later than I do!) made a big difference in my sleep quality. I do run a fan for white noise (and to drown out any noise of said teens and kids in the morning), but maybe experiment with silence if you live where it is quiet and see how that works for you!

Get some natural light exposure

As we head into the shorter days here in the north, sometimes I need to even go beyond natural light and use a light box. I wrote about how I work that into my day in a previous post. (And if you struggle at all with Seasonal Affective Disorder like I do, I did a series a few years ago on ideas for navigating that, and you can find it here! Whether I get outside, or sit by the light box, it’s important to do it early in the day, to help with your circadian rhythms. Train your melatonin to shut off in the morning, and work on getting it to kick in at the right time in the evening.

Take a hot salt bath: add essential oils!

If you know me at all, you knew it was coming, right!? ESSENTIAL OILS! Hands down my favorite sleep helper, in addition to a long soak in an epsom salt bath. If you are new to essential oils, purity is everything. Don’t buy them at Walmart or TJ Maxx. My favorite essential oil to sample people is doTERRA’s Serenity Oil. I just LOVE to help people sleep better. It’s truly life changing; it impacts so many areas of a person’s health! Lavender and Roman Chamomile are two other great oils for sleeping, as well as Ylang Ylang. (I’ll be sharing more about that fun-to-say oil soon as well!)

Get a massage or stretch before bed

Another thing I can tell immediately affects my sleep quality is some really good stretching  before bed. I am a big pilates fan, so my stretching tends to look a little pilates/yoga-ish, maybe I’ll use some exercise bands to stretch out tight hamstrings, focusing on deep relaxing breaths. My goal is to release tension while also keeping my heart rate at a relaxing pace.

Let me know if you try any of these ideas, and what your results are!

Also, if you have never tried doTERRA oils and would like to take some Serenity Oil for a test drive let me know! (And don’t pay retail… ask me how to get a deal!)

 

I will soon be taking on a few practice clients for my health coaching schoolwork. If you’d like to be one of them, reach out to me soon!