Mindful Monday: A New Challenge

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About a year ago I broke out into hives and never figured out why. A couple of months ago I woke up and my left eyelid had swollen half way shut. I was told at urgent care this was most likely a delayed allergic reaction. Antihistamines cleared up both the hives and the eyelid, but since it happened twice I was referred to an allergist specialist.

Based on my history and symptoms she didn’t think it was a food or environmental allergy. Instead of testing me for reactions to common allergens she recommended that we first do some blood work to rule out autoimmune diseases. She was able to rule out serious diseases such as Lupis but my ANA test did come back positive. This means that my allergic reactions are the result of healthy cells being attacked by my immune system from time to time. An ANA test can sometimes come back positive in a person who doesn’t have any autoimmune issues. However, since I have been diagnosed with psoriasis and mild rosacea in the past my doctor has ruled this out as a false positive. Psoriasis and rosacea are also autoimmune diseases and it’s not uncommon for someone with one autoimmune disease to develop more as time goes on.

My allergist feels that since my breakouts are not frequent I don’t need to be on antihistamines on a daily basis unless my I start having more episodes. Since I’m currently not exhibiting any clear signs of another specific autoimmune disease I’m waiting until my next appointment with my primary care physician so I can go over my labs with her and see if there are specific tests or specialists I should be consulting with.

Right now this isn’t a big deal, however, I know what autoimmune diseases run in my family and I’m a big fan of being proactive vs reactive when it comes to health issues. So after going over some resources that were recommended to me, I decided to try The Autoimmune Protocol or Paleo program. This is very similar to people who follow a paleo or whole 30 plan except it is much more restrictive. You cut out all foods that can cause inflammation and after 30 days you slowly start reintroducing them one at a time. You keep a log of your symptoms and how you are feeling each day. When you have a reaction to something it’s a sign that you want to avoid that food.

I’m over a week into the elimination portion of the program and it’s hard. You are limited to any meats and fish that are fresh and don’t have any additives or hormones and any fruits or vegetables as long as they aren’t nightshades. This means no grains, no seeds, nothing processed, no eggs, and no dairy. I’m lucky that I live in NYC and have access to butchers, fish markets, and farmers markets which makes meal planning much easier.

There are three things that make this plan challenging for me.

1.It is animal protein based: I’ve gone through spurts of eating a vegetarian diet. I started eating meat again this winter around the time of my surgery because my iron levels were so low and my body wasn’t absorbing supplements. I’ve been off iron for a few months now since I’m no longer anemic and had been eating less and less dairy. I was hoping to go full vegetarian again and perhaps eventually vegan but that doesn’t seem possible right now. I have a lot of guilt around eating meat which I shouldn’t because I was raised an omnivore so this isn’t a new concept to me. While meat is encouraged at every meal on the AI Paleo plan I’m following the suggested plan for people who aren’t used to eating a lot of meat. I typical day for me has one meat meal, one seafood meal, and a vegan meal which is usually soup and a salad or a breakfast shake with coconut milk for a little fat and protein.

2. It is challenging to eat out: A lot of my socializing is around meeting friends for a meal. This program makes it challenging to eat out. I generally have to limit myself to a salad and make sure there are no nightshades like tomatoes on it and do a vinegarette or oil and vinegar for the dressing. The other alternative is getting a meat and vegetable dish as long as I can get it without condiments or marinades that may contain nuts, seeds, or nightshades.

3. You can’t have coffee. Beans and legumes are also off limits which includes coffee beans. 😦 Caffeine is allowed in the form of tea. I like tea but I LOVE coffee and I’m still having a hard time with this elimination.

In all my posts about health, I must emphasize that I’m not a medical expert or doctor. I would like to share the resources that I am finding the most helpful right now:

The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook

The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook 

The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast

The Paleo Mom

Simple French Paleo

A Squirrel in the Kitchen

Throwback Thursday: Back to Basics


So after being thrown for a loop last week it’s back to basics. Weight loss and maintenance is easy and hard at the same time. The easy part is that while there are any number of diets or routines you can follow the basic principle is if you burn more calories than you ingest you should loose weight. The hard part is that it’s easier than it sounds. Busy schedules, stress, sometimes medical issues, and a host of other things can make it more challenging.

So in going back to basics I decided to be proactive, which I’m a big fan of in general. When given the choice I will chose pro-action over reaction every time. I know that a low carb and low sugar lifestyle works well for me because when I eat protein, veggies, and healthy carbs I stay fuller longer and have more energy. So I decided to do the 21 Day Sugar Detox. This isn’t really a diet or a cleanse it’s more of a lifestyle reboot. It’s three weeks of eating very low carb and low sugar to help you get rid of those sweet cravings that lead to unhealthy food choices and sugar crashes throughout the day. When it’s done you can still enjoy pretty much any food you want but hopefully you’ll have less of a craving for white flour and sugar filled products.

I’ll admit it’s challenging but I feel great and I’ve dropped 8 pounds. I have a goal to loose 13 more pounds to get back to my pre-slipped band weight and then enter maintenance mode. I am working with a nutritionist and have a support system behind me. I’m not a medical expert so I can’t say if doing this detox would be good for you, but for me this has been the kickstart I’ve needed after last week.

Mindful Monday: Sparkpeople

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Given last week’s setback, I want to focus my posts this week around what I’m doing to hit the ground running and let this change of plans become a challenge to help me prove to myself that I’m stronger than I ever imagined vs a defeat that I have no control over.

 I’ve mentioned both lap band surgery and running in previous as tools that have helped me loose and maintain my weight. Another tool that has helped me is SparkPeople. When I initially got my lap band SparkPeople was a place I’d turn to almost daily. In the past couple of years, it has been more of a resource that I occasionally visit for a reminder. Last week I got back in the habit of using it daily.

SparkPeople is a website and app that allows you to track calories, fitness goals, and water intake. In the past beyond nutrition and exercise journaling what I found really useful about SparkPeople is the community aspect.  The platform allows you to join teams made up of people with similar backgrounds, interests, or goals.  For example, I belong to teams for people who have lap bands, fans of The Ohio State Buckeyes, and writers.  You can join team goals, chat with each other in the forums, but most importantly cheer one another on.  The mini goals set by the teams and the camaraderie of supporting one another in victories and setbacks is what kept me coming back.  

I have to say since I was last regularly using the site the activity in the teams has died down a bit. My day job is in Community Managment so I know that this is pretty typical. I’m finding new teams with more active members to help me with the support aspect of this journey.

What is really helping me right now is the trackers for nutrition.  I do plug in my exercise too, but since I use a Fitbit for that, food is really what I focus on with SparkPeople. I love being able to easily pull up foods and enter them for each meal. The site automatically pulls up all the nutrients for me. You can set nutrition goals and trackers. Aside from calories I also track protein, fat, carbs, and fiber. I wish I could track sugar since that is something I’m really reducing, but unfortunately, that isn’t a current tracking feature on SparkPeople.  

Do you have other nutrition or fitness trackers that you swear by?