Becoming a Better Me: 3 Months Later

Not gonna lie. I never thought I’d make it to three months into this whole process. In fact, I questioned whether I’d make it through the first 30 days. But, here I am! Stubbornness for the win!

As I mentioned previously, I took some “before” pictures of myself. I took those pictures on March 1st, because that’s when I was determined to make some changes for myself….. Fast forward to April 1st, and that’s when I actually initiated said changes. Better late than never, right?

Well, this morning, I had Hubby take some “after” pictures. I was kind of excited because I just knew the physical changes were awesome. Hubby couldn’t wait to see them side by side. He’s witness my progress and also knew the changes were pretty huge.

I wasn't going to post these for obvious reasons, but then figured some of you may ask. Clearly, the change has been staggering. #sarcasm
Clearly, the change has been staggering. #sarcasm

Except they weren’t. Obviously.

My ego was a bit put out by this. What the heck? I’ve been working my tail off for 3 months, changing my eating habits completely, exercising every flipping day, and there is very little noticeable difference?!?! I must different by now! I have muscles, for crying out loud! 

Then, in the middle of my ego-temper-tantrum, I remembered something. Something very important. I didn’t start this journey to look better. I started this journey to feel better. Looking better, should that happen, would just be a pleasant side effect.

After this realization, I thought about it. How do I feel after three months?

In a word? Amazing.

It took some time to get to this point. During the first four to six weeks, “amazing” was not at all what I was feeling. But something shifted between weeks six and eight, and then even more after that. I started to feel good, and then I started to feel great. I have more energy. I leave the house more often. I think more clearly with no more brain fog. I feel more confident in what I say and do, and just in myself in general. I look better to myself, even if it’s negligible in pictures. My clothes fit better. My skin is clearer. My eyes are brighter. I feel…. lighter. Many of the issues I started with have been resolved. For example, I did not get a hormonal migraine headache this month for the first time in probably two years. I’m sleeping better and actually wake feeling refreshed most of the time. Even better? My attitude is different. For the first time in a long time, I’m not pessimistic about everything. I went from a “yeah, but….” type of person to someone who sees a great future in front of me. I make better choices, whether it’s about what I’m going to eat or what I’m going to do or what I’m going to think about. I feel hopeful instead of constantly worried and overwhelmed. I am much less stressed, and events that typically would’ve caused me to meltdown no longer have that power. I feel more level-headed. Little things don’t bother me so much. I’m more even-tempered and less likely to either go off the deep end or throw a pity party for myself. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I hosted a pity party for myself!

It’s crazy.

The funny thing is, when this all started, the phrase “lifestyle change” was tossed around a lot. I would smile and nod, because of course I would change my lifestyle and tell you whatever you want to hear, while inside I was laughing my butt off and saying no way – I like my wine and coffee and desserts too much! And I hate exercising! But something happened. I feel too good to go back. Now, I have most everything back that I took out of my diet. At the moment, I’m still gluten and refined sugar free, I avoid soy based items and processed foods, but I’ve gotten back dairy and wine and coffee and such. And I’m making more intentional choices about these things. I know now, for example, if I have more than one glass of wine, I’m not going to sleep well and I’m going to feel a bit sluggish and headachy the next day. I know that if I choose to eat a little too much cheese, I will experience pain and bloating later. I know that more than one cup of coffee will give me an “off” feeling in the afternoon. I know that if I eat something carb-ish at night without adding some protein, I will not sleep well. And if I don’t eat or snack regularly, or if I skip a meal? My crazy starts to come back out. I’m learning what’s worth it, and what’s not. What to do, and what not to do. And gluten? I never in a zillion years thought I’d  be able to live without it, let alone want to avoid it. I have had a little recently, once unintentionally, and once in the form of a delicious crusted tilapia filet. I  had no ill-effects that I noticed, so it appears I have no physical “issues” with gluten. But I know that it will quite possibly be my undoing, so I’m leaving it out, indefinitely. I’m making better choices. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever eat a sandwich, or make my favorite cookies or brownies again. And the Butterfinger I have in my freezer from Easter is still waiting for me…. But, for now, I know I can live without it, so I am.

And my exercising….. wow. Who would’ve thought I’d become borderline obsessed with making sure I can get my workout in?! Over the course of three months, I’ve missed a grand total of three workouts. Just three – and that’s only because we were camping. I refuse to miss a workout, especially when I don’t feel like it. It’s become a game – a mental tug of war between the lazy, old me and the better, new me. So far, the better me keeps winning.  I’ve now completed the full 8-week 22 Minute Hard Corps program (plus an extra week of it just for kicks), and I just completed the 21 Day Fix program. Not sure what’s up next, but I feel pretty confident that I will not fall off the wagon this time. It may take only 21 days to form a habit, but I want a solid three months, just to be safe!

So, yeah, I’d say this becoming a better me journey is working. And I now wholeheartedly believe it’s been worth it. I still have about two months to go until I’ve completed the program with my doctor, but so far, the results, while not outwardly visible to most, have been more than I could have hoped for.

Becoming a Better Me: Diet II

Some of the things I've been eating all month!
Some of the things I’ve been eating all month!

30 days of no grains.
30 days of no dairy.
30 days of no sweeteners or processed foods of any kind.
30 days of no caffeine.
30 days of no alcohol.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? And that’s not even the full list of no-no’s during my initial 30 day diet!

So, what did I eat for 30 days? I wish I could tell you. If I had kept a food journal, this post would be much easier to write. But I didn’t because, well, it just didn’t cross my mind. And I was really, really grumpy in the beginning, so odds are I wouldn’t have kept up with it anyway…

We’ve been eating a lot of eggs. (I’m on a modified AIP diet, so I’m allowed eggs and nuts. Woohoo!) We have easily been going through 4 dozen eggs each week at my house, and only three of us eat them. Thank goodness for Costco! Also, avocados, which sounds awesome until you realize you can’t have them as guacamole with chips (because no corn) or salsa (because tomatoes are also on my “no-no” list). I mean, I love me some avocados, but still. Sweet potatoes. I’ve eaten more sweet potatoes in the last month than I had in all the years of my life prior to this past month. Luckily, those have kinda grown on me and I’ve been enjoying them, especially when sautéed with some onion in bacon fat. Yum. I’ve also been inhaling almonds. I grab a handful of raw almonds as a snack with berries and carry them with me everywhere I go. Another favorite snack – apples with almond butter. Delish. And just spoonfuls of almond butter. That has become my dessert of choice since I have no other options. Obviously we’re eating a lot more meat and veggies. A lot more. Especially since we can’t get eat the usual “fillers” like rice or pasta or even beans (also no-no’s). The good news is that by eating this way, we’re getting a ton more nutrients in our diets. The bad news is that it’s putting a serious dent in our budget.

I keep saying “we” because I wasn’t going to do this alone. Actually, scratch that. I wasn’t going to buy/cook foods that I couldn’t eat. So really, there was no choice for Hubby and the kiddos. I’ve kept very little dairy or gluten products in the house, so everyone has had to adjust a bit. No bread. No cheese. No baked goods. The kids have been getting long-grain rice cooked in bone broth or brown rice noodles with their dinner on occasion, as well as gluten free cereal some mornings. I decided that was tolerable and necessary for my sanity. The amazing thing is, the kids have actually been eating. Turns out they will eat more than just plain noodles, chicken nuggets, or cheese quesadillas! Who knew?

The first week we had planned on a ton of new recipes. I spent hours in the kitchen. I ruined things, burned things, didn’t like most of the things (cilantro was in many recipes, and it turns out that I really don’t love cilantro), and basically was just miserable. The timing on “experimenting” was horrible because I was already a cranky beast. I was getting zero coffee, zero sugar, and zero wine. In hindsight, my planning was definitely not well thought out. By day three I was ready to quit. Fortunately, day three was also a doctor’s appointment, and she talked me off my ledge.

Week two was better in the food department because I just decided we’d be boring. I don’t do fancy in the kitchen (unless it involves baked goods, and this most certainly does not). That’s how we started on eggs most mornings, salads or leftovers for lunch, and basic dinners consisting of meat and veggies. Nothing fancy. Pork chops with roasted brussel sprouts. Chicken breasts with broccoli. Pot roast with sweet potatoes. You know, “normal” foods that I could actually make without bursting into tears. The second week was much better than the first.

But something was missing… Pancakes. I attempted to find some recipes so I could feel like we were eating “real” pancakes, even though I couldn’t have butter or syrup. *sigh* I did manage to find a recipe that I tweaked and all of us enjoyed. Well, the kids loved them, but I think it was really just because it’s been so long since they had “real” pancakes that they imagined they were better than they actually were. Hubby and I just tolerated them. I also attempted a “cookie” recipe that the kids won’t touch (and I don’t really blame them), but I eat because it “feels” like a cookie, even if it doesn’t taste like one. The lack of baking has definitely taken a toll on me because that’s the one thing I enjoy doing in the kitchen.

We did, however, find recipes that we really and truly do love. We have a turkey sausage recipe that we all enjoy, and we’ve been making at least 2 pounds each weekend to have during the week. Hubby and I love sweet potato hash, whether it’s at breakfast topped with fried eggs or dinner with some leftover chicken mixed into it. And the best one? Bacon burgers. We chop the bacon and mix it into the seasoned burger meat and grill it to perfection. Topped with grilled onions, it’s to die for. (No bun of course.)

Now, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that it was an awesome 30 days. It wasn’t. I was cranky a lot the first half and had my bad days throughout the month. I still want donuts and wine and cheese and wine and coffee and did I mention wine? I had hoped that the 30 days would “break” me of wanting those things, but no such luck. There were many days that I felt crabby and wondered if it was even going to be worth it. I distinctly remember one day telling myself, “there’s not really anything that wrong with me, so I don’t really need to be doing this…” But I stuck with it. I have no idea how, to be honest, because I am not known for willpower, but I made it all the way through my 30 days with no cheating. Actually, that’s a lie. I cheated on accident when I tasted a smoothie I made for the kids and it had yogurt in it. But it wasn’t a purposeful cheat, so I don’t think that counts as a real cheat. Right?

Now that my 30 days are over, how do I feel?

First of all, I’m starving all the time. I am eating three meals a day plus at least two snacks – more than I ever used to eat! With the amount of food I’m eating, you would think that I would feel full often. But no, I am always hungry. Amazing what happens when you take out all the empty calories and fillers. I just ate a pretty big meal about an hour ago, in fact, and I’m realizing that I’m hungry again as I’m sitting here. Pumpkin and Hubby are the same way. The three of us are constantly famished. Peanut, not so much, but she’s also the one not really eating like I am because she’s the pickiest. I’m not sure why I’m always hungry, but I am. So I just keep on eating.

Now, I was kind of expecting a moment somewhere during the diet when the heavens open and the angels sing and the sun shines down on me and I suddenly feel awesome. Because I really, really want to feel awesome…. but that hasn’t happened. Instead, my body is working better. (Please don’t ask me to explain. Just trust me.) I think I’m sleeping a little better, and I’m getting up early without too much struggle. And energy? I don’t necessarily feel it, but I must have more energy. I mean, I’m not bouncing off the walls and cleaning every corner of my house (wouldn’t that be a nice side-effect?), but I’m not lethargic during the day. I’m not having to spend time on the couch because I just.can’t.move. I’m actually busy and productive during the day and into the night. I’ve been out and about frequently during the last couple weeks, and that’s unheard of for a self-proclaimed hermit like me. I’m even still dressed by the time Hubby gets home from work in the evening instead of in my robe on the couch in mombie-mode.

As cheesy as it sounds, things also seem brighter to me. I remember driving back from a doctor’s appointment one morning and noticing how blue the sky looked and how bright and cheerful everything seemed. I even rolled my eyes at myself for thinking it, but it’s true. Life just seems better. Am I happy all the time? Of course not. But I think I’ve been happier and less stressed lately. And that’s a win for me!

Ok, so, now what?

I’m only one month into a five month program. I’ve just entered the re-introduction phase. On Wednesday I got some foods back like nightshades (tomatoes and peppers!) and all fruit (bananas!). I also can have beans again (hummus!) and sweeteners like honey and maple syrup within reason. (We have to keep my blood sugar levels consistent.) Those are my “go for it” foods that I can have as long as I have no ill effects. We’re also slowly adding other things back in, one at a time every 4 days. I asked for wine, but that was a no-go. (Sad but not surprising.) Instead, I settled for oats. That gives me something else for breakfast besides eggs. After four days, if I have no reactions to the oats, I can add rice (and rice pasta). I figure that’s a good second step because, again, it opens up so much more for meals. Next week we get to decide on two more items to add back.

I think I’ll try the wine again.

I’ll keep you posted as I move along!

 

Becoming a Better Me: Diet I

Ah, yes. Diet. The word just about all people love to hate.

Let’s clear up what my “diet” is and is not, shall we? First of all, my diet is NOT for me to lose weight. Hubby has lost some weight by following this diet (mostly) with me, but that is not the goal for me. That being said, it is a nice side effect. Next, this diet was NOT my idea. At all. In fact, this diet basically took away all that I love to eat and drink. There is no way I would do that to myself without really good reason. Heck, even with a really good reason it was hard to decide to do it! So, why am I putting myself through it…..?

If you read my why post, you know that things needed to change with me. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what. I was tired, unmotivated, depressed and easily overwhelmed, plus I had actual physical issues like migraine headaches, recurrent UTI’s, digestive problems, and other things that, while not life threatening, were nonetheless taking away from my every day living. Something just wasn’t right. So, I went to get outside help.

To start this process, I had a neurological workup done and a huge questionnaire packet to fill out. From there, we moved on to comprehensive lab work to find out what was actually going on with me. Turns out, I’m not crazy! There are actual, real, measurable problems that need to be addressed. Nothing too serious, but had I continued on the path I was going without intervention, things would have gotten much worse. I’d love to explain it all to you, but to be honest, I don’t think I could. It all made sense when my doctor explained it to me and broke each test result down, but as soon as I left the office, the information was just a mishmash of long words. But the lab results did show that there are real reasons for my all of my issues. That in itself made me feel a better. At least there is something to work with – something to be “fixed”. It’s not just all in my head!

Let food by thy  medicine and medicine be thy food.

~ Hippocrates

First step in fixing my issues is to fix my gut. I’m a firm believer that most of the population in this country has gut issues because of the “foods” we regularly eat. What most people don’t realize is how important a healthy gut is to our overall health. I’ve done some reading on it in the past but was still blown away when my doctor tied everything I’ve been dealing with to gut (and liver) issues. I’m by no means an expert so I won’t weigh in too much on all this, other than with what I’m experiencing personally.

So, how does one fix their gut? By eliminating foods. A lot of foods. Foods that I consume regularly. And you know what? That’s really, really hard to do! My doctor put me on a 30 day modified RepairVite program, which is an AIP (auto-immune protocol) diet. I call it Paleo on steroids because it’s more restrictive than Paleo, but along the same lines. Basically, it takes out everything. No grains, no dairy, no sugars of any kind (natural or otherwise), no nightshades (peppers, tomatoes, etc), no soy, no beans or legumes, no high-glycemic fruits like bananas and dried fruits, no condiments because they usually contain gluten, no caffeine, no alcohol…… There are a lot of “no”s in this diet. (Did you see the no coffee and no wine?!?!) Fortunately, I have no autoimmune issues so I am allowed to have eggs and nuts (just not peanuts). That’s why my diet is “modified”. For 30 days, this has been my life. There were a bunch of times when I wanted to quit, but I didn’t. There were loads of times I wanted to cheat, but I didn’t. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right!

And I did.

Next up, what I have been eating, and any changes I’ve noticed….

 

Becoming a Better Me: My Why

Sure feels that way sometimes, doesn't it?
Sure feels that way sometimes, doesn’t it?

Well, this post is weeks overdue. I had planned to journal this whole experience here on my blog. But, well, life. Besides, I’m about 99.9% sure you would NOT have wanted to read what I would have said the first few days of this experience. Grumpy is an understatement. Beast is more appropriate for those days. But let’s back up, shall we?

If you follow me on social media (Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter) you will have noticed that some of my posts of late have leaned toward fitness and food. No, I haven’t been hacked, although I understand why you would think that. Instead, the decision was made that enough was enough. I’ve talked about trying to take better care of myself. I’ve committed to goals here and there, like a 5K last summer and my 30 days of No Excuses. I’ve reached those goals, and then fallen right back to my normal. And my normal isn’t good.

Backstory: I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression the last five-ish years. I’m pretty sure it was PPD after the little one was born, but I was never “diagnosed”. I was even put on anti-depressants for a while, secretly, of course. (Well, Hubby knew because he is the one who convinced me I needed to talk to my doctor and get them, but I kept it secret because *gasp* I don’t need those.) I managed to get off of the pills after about 18 months, but I never really got back to being the old me. On top of that I’m not really all that healthy. Again, I fake it well. People see me and assume I’m in decent shape because I’m thin, but really, I’m just a skinny fat person. My insides have been all out of whack from years of not eating well or often enough. I’d actually play a game with myself in my head when I’d start to get hungry. I’d hold off as long as I could before stopping to eat. Eventually, the hungry just went away. I’d often go with just one meal a day, maybe a handful of crackers or something to get me through the rest of the day. As a mom, it was kind of a given that I would just eat what the kids left on their plates, and I’d never take the time to cook for myself. With Hubby’s schedule, dinners just weren’t all that important to me. Breakfast was usually coffee, unless Hubby was home to cook or we had baked goods in the house. Lunch? Waste of time and effort for myself. So, yeah, I have had a problem for years. I would eat, but not often enough to benefit my body. Fortunately, I didn’t eat crap all the time, so at least there was that. I mean, I love desserts, so I’d eat crap when it was around. But I had been making an effort to keep it around much less. I thought that was good enough. Apparently, not so much.

I’ve also been beating myself up a lot over the last couple of years. I am a recovering perfectionist who felt like I was failing at life all.the.time. I felt like I was failing my kids. Failing my husband. Failing at keeping up with the house. Just failing at everything. Again, on the outside, it was all sunshine and roses, but in my head? Life was just not going well. That’s partly why I started this blog – it was going to be my outlet. I was in quite a downward spiral of feeling lost and lonely and full of anxiety. I rarely left the house. I joke that I’m a hermit, but for real, I was getting close to having a serious problem with anxiety when I had to leave the house for any reason without Hubby. Fortunately, my oils have helped calm that crazy-train down, but I still was not “right”. I was always tired. And not just a “I didn’t get enough sleep” tired, but so tired that I felt like I could hardly function for days. I had zero motivation to do anything, and zero reason that I could find to even bother.

So, what happened? Why now am I finally making some changes?

Simple answer, my family. Hubby needs me to be my best so I can take care of our family, and I was sooooo not there. My kids need me to be a good example for them, and I was sooooo not it. I was always tired and grumpy. I never wanted to play with them or really do anything with them because it was too exhausting, and eventually they stopped asking me. The house was a disaster to me. I was constantly overwhelmed with all the things, real or imagined. Basically, something had to give. I was wallowing more often than not, and it was getting worse and more frequent, and that’s not ok. So, Hubby pretty much said it had to change.

This year became my year of taking care of me.

I wasn’t going to take initiative to make myself better, even if deep down I wanted it. So, Hubby did that for me by finding a doctor. When I balked because of the cost involved, he sat me down and made sure that I knew I was worth it. He knows I’d do anything for him and the kids if something needed to be done, but me? Nah, I’ll live without it. I’ll manage and make due.

Except I wasn’t.

So, over the last few months, I’ve take steps to become a better me. I committed to an 8-week exercise program that’s kicking my butt. I’m now in week 5 and haven’t skipped a day, and I can see a difference! (I even have “before” pictures to post after I’m all done, with “after” pictures, of course.) I started seeing a chiropractor who has a focus on functional medicine, and we’ve been working through lots of my dietary issues to get to the root of my problems. This has been tough because I’m on a highly restrictive diet right now. Ridiculously restrictive. Dairy-free, grain-free, sugar-free, alcohol-free, chocolate-free, caffeine-free, fun-free diet. Hence the grumpy/beast mood. (Don’t worry, it’s getting better! The mood, not the diet. Ha!)

So, that’s my “why” for this seemingly crazy journey I’ve started. I’m not doing this diet or exercise program as an experiment because I really want to. I’m doing it because I have to. I have to fix me.

So, follow along as I work on #becomingabetterme. I promise to post frequent updates the rest of the way, including details of what I’m doing and how it’s going. I may even toss in a recipe or two from this crazy diet.

Spoiler alert – it’s working!