If I could eat whatever I wanted I’d have my Dad’s oatmeal pancakes for breakfast (with chocolate chips), chicken cutlet sub or egg salad with lettuce and tomato on whole wheat for lunch, and spaghetti with meatballs for dinner or fettuccine alfredo with broccoli. Then maybe a chocolate chocolate chip ice cream with hot fudge and peanut butter.
Now if I actually ate all of that in a day I’d likely feel super shitty in every way the next day. Oh and probably throw in a glass or two of wine. Forgot about the alcohol!
Around the time I had my two surgeries, so roughly ten years ago, I was exploring every possible alternative treatment for endometriosis. I learned it was a chronic illness and actually would never really go away…I needed alternative means to try and take control.
I read a great book, which I still have, by Dian Shepperson Mills, called Endomestriosis: A Key to Healing Through Nutrition. She is British so there were recipes with “aubergines” in them and I didn’t know what the hell that was. She also talked about inflammatory foods which I had never learned about before. I had a degree in nursing at this point…no one ever taught us about inflammatory foods. We learned nutrition based on the food pyramid. Shaking my head now.
She advised cutting out dairy, wheat, meat, and sugar. So basically everything in my diet. And alcohol. Over the next ten years I would try all variations of these dietary changes. I did cut them all out at one point. I remember that month of pain from endo and withdrawal from every food I ever ate.
I’ve perfected gluten free baking. It only took about five years to get that down. I now have a great flour mix that allows me to enjoy baked goods.
I slowly learned that gluten free, dairy free, and mostly meat free (some times chicken), with fish included, and low sugar is the best to keep my symptoms controlled.
It totally sucks at times though to be so restrictive. I’ve had epic meltdowns in restaurants. Well not in, but in the car afterward. We scour the menu before we go anywhere now to make sure there are options for me. When people ask if I have a food allergy I just say Yes, because I am sick of explaining that no I don’t have an anaphylactic reaction but I will be in crippling pain for a few days after eating wheat or gluten or dairy.
This year off birth control and doing hot yoga I still couldn’t lose weight though. I also was having a lot of pain and realized my PCOS was back as I now had several cysts on my left ovary. I was eating too much sugar and meat. I was eating a lot of what the boys were eating which was not good for me.
I met with my OB and she confirmed the cyst diagnosis I already had given myself. She did it by ultrasound; I knew I had cysts based off thirty four years living in this body. She offered me a lot of pharmaceutical and surgical options. I shook my head and asked her to order some lab work and then I left to go back to my roots of nutrition for endometriosis and PCOS.
When I examined my eating habits and my lack of weight loss I realized I was eating healthy-ish but not a true anti-inflammatory diet.
So I prepared my wife. She’s been with me through many cleanses before. She knew what to expect. No alcohol. No sugar. No gluten. No dairy. Lots of kale smoothies and this time I was allowing myself seafood because it has specifically been linked to lower PCOS symptoms.
Off I went. Two eggs over easy in the morning usually over sweet potatoes or veggies from the night before. Or with cooked salmon or homemade sausage (Whole 30 recipe). Lunch- Smoothie. No snacks. Lots of water. In the smoothie- kale, avocado, banana, frozen strawberries or frozen peaches, maybe a tablespoon of peanut butter, and maybe unsweetened cocoa, and definitely unsweetened almond milk. I fill up a 32 oz nalgene bottle with it and that’s my lunch.
Dinner- Generally another smoothie. I always change up the fruit or greens but there’s always an avocado. If I have “real food” I have grilled squash or sweet potatoes and fish like salmon or haddock. Sometimes I throw scallops and frozen veggies into a pot on the stove with olive oil and Old Bay seasoning.
You get the picture. No snacks. Veggies. Fruit. Seafood. Eggs. Lots of water. No alcohol.
The first week sucks ass. The first two days I’m always hungry. The third-fifth day I want to kill some one. The sixth day it becomes more manageable. That’s where I screw myself sometimes. Just when it’s getting easier a weekend pops up and I think, hmmm, I’ll have a drink or a dessert because it’s my cheat day. But cheat days don’t work for this.
Because the super annoying part is I see results. I am losing weight. I also feel better. I hadn’t gotten my period for over a month as often happens with PCOS, five days into my crazy new diet plan I got my period. No pain either. So yeah. It’s infuriating because it works. It’s amazing because it works.
I feel better now that I’m not starving all the time because my stomach adjusted and now I actually crave smoothies and feel full after them. I feel better now that I’m not in nearly as much pain. The cysts are gone. I don’t need an ultrasound to tell me. That constant feeling of pressure and fullness is gone. So yeah. Kale. My new bestie.
It’s nothing I haven’t done before. I keep telling myself I’ve actually been more restrictive in the past. But sometimes I just want to toss the damn blender and eat some chicken nuggets and fries and chocolate cake. I just want my body to not be my enemy. But that’s all self pity.
Endometriosis and PCOS force me to actually treat my body better than I would without a chronic illness. Do I yearn for an egg salad sandwich on real bread? Yes. But I love living without pain more. Does it irritate me that I can’t eat what I want when I want? Yes. But I begrudgingly appreciate the accountability this disease forces me to take over my choices and my nutrition.
Not one doctor of the many I’ve visited has ever told me to read Mills’ book. Yet among Endo people it’s a well known valuable resource.
I practice Western medicine. But I know firsthand it’s limitations.
Here’s to my nutrition and to yours. If you think you can’t…make it past day six and seven…then you can. Promise.
What I’ve learned the most is not all restrictions were right for me. I really had to feel it out and figure out what foods aggravate and what foods heal. That is very individualized. Some people wouldn’t tolerate eggs or seafood. For me they work. Get to know your own body and yes restrict so you can add slowly back in to see what makes the pain worse. It’s a horrible experiment. But worth it.