** Content Note! – if you have in the past wrestled, or are currently wrestling, with an eating disorder or anything along those lines, please read the following post carefully? I’m aware these are sensitive and rough topics to work through. I will not be linking to different things I’ll be talking about, because I don’t recommend those things, nor do I want to give a certain company any more business.
I’m sitting here in a slightly darkened house, trying to keep it cool in here while the temps get up close to 80 degrees today. And the windows are closed because there are a few nasty fires down in Arizona and we’re getting some of the smoke.
Anyway, I’ve been wrestling with something for the past week and felt the need to write it out. About two months ago I switched how I was eating to following a fairly strict ketogenic food plan. I did this after my surgery at the beginning of March because how I was eating before was just not working. I strongly suspect Endometriosis to be on my bowels, and that is what is causing my IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms. BUT, since my [mostly competent] doctor didn’t look around when she was taking out my ovary, I am not willing to go through another surgery right now to get things looked at. Thus, I turned to how I am eating to see if I could manage the symptoms of my IBS better and maybe, just maybe, get to a place where I could at the very least, like food again.
Enter Keto. I did a lot of research on diets that affect or can help manage endometriosis symptoms, IBS symptoms, as well as hypothyroidism. An AIP (autoimmune protocol) “diet” is highly recommended for managing inflammation, but something about that irks me and I’ve had difficulty convincing myself to strictly follow AIP with my eating habits. I stumbled upon several medical studies talking about using Keto to treat and manage IBS. Ironically, how I am modifying my Keto intake is very close to an AIP diet. Which is good to know and makes sense why Keto can help inflammation.
Here’s a little bit of information about Keto – it’s HIGH fat LOW carb. With counting my macros, my calories should be about 1700, Fat 145 grams, Carbs 22 grams, and protein about 65 grams. 22 grams of carbs seems really low, but when you take out all grains and just about all sugar, it’s very doable. I thought it would be really hard to cut out grains, as I’ve sort of clung to gluten free pasta and rice as needed additions to a lot of meals. However because I had been having an increasingly uncomfortable reaction to even gluten free flours, cutting out all grains was easier than I thought it would be. Which is quite the opposite of what happened when I was told to go gluten free – I cried as I thought it would be sooooo hard to cut gluten out of my life. The thing that made it easier to do so was realizing that gluten really did make me very sick. I thought maybe if I give it a year then I can go back to eating those gluten-y comfort foods. But nope. I tried to eat gluten and it made me feel like my stomach was being shredded from the inside out. Due to this discovery, it is very easy for me to avoid gluten.
Being in pain of some sort 24/7, 365, has given me a very low tolerance for anything that causes me pain that can be avoided. I had a feeling that if I were to cut all grains out that I wouldn’t be able to add them back in. Especially with how I felt eating prior to surgery. I was willing to change how I was eating to see if it would help me feel even just a little bit better. After a month and a half of eating Keto, I tried to add plain cooked rice back in and whoa boy, my stomach felt similarly to how it feels if I eat gluten – absolutely shredded. For now, I’m going back to avoiding all grains.
Alright, here’s what I really wanted to talk about.
I hate the word “Diet.” I hate the connotations that surround that word, and the misuse it’s been through. I believe in honoring the body and feeding the body with the foods it needs and giving room to be whatever it needs to be. I have seen so many MLM consultants raving about certain “diets” and about how you could lose so much weight. I have watched people flock to the wraps, the dieting powders, the exercise programs – and I admit, they’ve appealed to me. I’ve wrestled with gaining and losing and maintaining my weight and having a positive body image of my own body for a very long time. Better understanding of how skewed my hormones are and have been for a very long time has given me more grace for my body. Not being able to lose weight now makes sense, as does gaining a lot when I was really sick. BUT! That doesn’t remove my desire to have a quick fix. My desires started shifting a year and a half ago when food turned fully into an enemy. I went from limiting how much I ate and feeling sad every time I did allow myself to eat a big meal to pretty much saying “f*ck eating, everything is making me sick!” To be honest, neither perspective is a healthy way to approach food. The first was something I was doing to myself, the second view point is what was being done to me. It felt like my body was turning against me – again. Even though I felt so helpless with my body, I instinctively knew it wouldn’t matter if I put myself on a diet, diets don’t work. At least they don’t work long term. So what was the point of dieting anyway?
Dealing with chronic illnesses took away any energy I may have had to stay active. Dealing with chronic illnesses took away any drive I had for “managing my weight.” On the okay days, it was merely a success to have gotten three meals in during the day. But I wasn’t happy. I didn’t feel good about my body, and I felt like I was barely maintaining a grip on where I was at that point in time. I love following Instagramers like BodyPosiPanda, and I love her take on loving your body and eating what you want and being comfortable with who you are. But I struggle with accepting that for myself. I, at least now, cannot eat whatever I want. I am up against significant food intolerance issues now. The other side of that is I struggle to wrap my mind around “eat whatever you want.” Clothes and how they feel and fit are deeply important to me. If I gained weight and my clothes didn’t fit comfortably, that would be more devastating to me than gaining weight. It would feel like I was wasting money on finding clothes that felt comfortable on, only to have them not fit in a few months. So how does that work? I sincerely ask. How do you maintain a good body image and yet stay practical with clothes? (just something I’ve given a lot of thought to in the past year…)
It was difficult to not getting sucked into the whole “Keto for weightloss!!” trend. I remember Keto being really big a few years ago and how it was the new trendy diet. I hesitated to tell anyone I was starting to follow Keto with my food. I felt like there was this huge unspoken thing when it comes to Keto – I’m just doing it for weight loss. I would be lying though if I said I wasn’t partially following Keto for weight loss. But it is also so much more for me. I am glad Keto is helping me at least lose some fat. But I am also glad it feels like my body isn’t struggling as hard, and I am feeling so much more satisfied and comfortable with food. I’m not reacting as much after meals, and that in and of itself is the biggest advantage of eating Keto. But every other article or recipe I read about Keto gives warnings about how you may lose a lot of weight but you will gain it all back if you switch back to how you were eating before! Which sure, I get. It’s a very different way of eating and it’s the complete opposite of almost every other diet. And that’s why after a month and a half of doing Keto, and seriously craving fresh fruit that wasn’t “allowed” on Keto, I went looking for something else. I doubted how long term Keto could be for me. And I was losing sight of the real reason I switched to Keto to begin with.
I stumbled upon and tried something for a week called IIFYM (If it Fits Your Macros). Talk about conflicting information – IIFYM is the complete opposite of Keto – HIGH carbs LOW fat. Even though Keto was making me feel better, I don’t think I really had realized just how much of a difference it was making in my body. I started researching more information and one article would say that high carbs and low fat is how you should diet. Another article would say no, it’s just the caloric intake that matters! Yet another would say that if you really wanted to lose weight, high fat and low carbs is the way to go. The deeper into the articles I went, the more I lost sight of why I had actually started Keto in the first place. Body image insecurities and doubts that I wasn’t doing things the right way starting creeping in. At the end of the week of following IIFYM protocols, I felt worse than I had at the beginning of the week. I felt so conflicted about what was best for my body (read: best for losing weight). I felt no desire to step on the scale and it felt like my body was getting really inflamed. And inflamed = water weight, bloating, achy joints, and swollen crampy abdomen for me.
When I sat down with my therapist on Saturday, I laid all my conflicted feelings out in the open. I began to see how my desire to find a way of eating that would make me feel better had turned in to how can I lose the most weight. I was scared of trying something and the end result being having gained a bunch of weight. I can accept where my body is at right now, but deep down, I still don’t feel like I am enough, or that my body is thin enough. I realized that in trying to follow IIFYM, I was close to getting obsessed with my weight and counting my macros. I knew this was not healthy and if anything, my body was starting to feel sick again. I tried to put aside all desires and confliction I felt about losing weight and compared Keto and IIFYM side by side. I needed to get back to the root reason for why I decided to start Keto in the first place. As I sat there and took stock of how my body felt and what my body was asking for, I saw that it didn’t matter what “diet” I followed, as long as my body felt comfortable and [almost] healthy. With Keto specifically, I felt fuller and more satisfied by my meals. I wasn’t having a food reaction after everything I ate or drank. When I was hungry, I was really hungry, not just oh I guess I could eat hungry. Can we take a moment to process that? I have not felt hungry hungry in a very long time. This was huge. My body hadn’t felt as inflamed and even though the amount of fresh foods “allowed” with Keto wasn’t very much, I realized I had no issues adding in a higher fruit sugar food if that’s what my body needed.
Then I came across an article about AIP and the foods recommended and I realized that how I’m eating with Keto is very very close to an AIP diet. This gave me the reassurance that my original decision to follow Keto was the right one. If I lose weight following Keto, then that’s great! But that is not my goal with Keto. I know that I need structure, even if it’s just a little bit, to feel comfortable in my day to day life. So having a title to give what and how I’m eating helps. I am counting my macros with Keto, but it is only to make sure I am actually getting enough fats and calories and eating the right amount of carbs. I know by following the macros set for my body I feel the best. Once I feel like I have a routine again, I won’t track as much. But again, for me, it’s giving myself the structure I need. I know this does not work for everyone, and those who struggle with getting obsessed with their weight and tracking things, this could be very harmful. If structure helps you, then track or follow a specific “diet.” But if structure leads you down an unhealthy path, avoid it!
My therapist asked me what my body was asking for. If I was take away all diet protocols, or “allowed” foods, what was left? What did my body say it wanted? This was a helpful way of looking at things. It gave me the space to give my body the space to tell me what it needed. And I know if I’m not listening to my body, then I’m going to end up in the weeds, feeling very sick.
I have a lot more thoughts about dieting and weight and body image that I’ll share in another post. Thank you for making it to the end of this long post!