Three weeks done!

I am starting my 4th week following a cross between the regular McDougall program outlined in The Starch Solution and the one for Maximum Weight Loss. I am still eating some bread, tortillas and pastas. But most of my meals are whole foods. I eat very little fats and only occasionally. I never eat isolated fats (with the exception of a tablespoon of some vegan ranch dressing I added to a bowl of bulgur and pinto beans). I eat a lot of potatoes and various grains. Tonight I am making plantains.

So how is it going so far? Well, I feel great! I have a lot of energy, I am breaking out less, and my clothes are all getting looser. I have lost 10.6 lbs in 3 weeks which I am very proud of. If I maintain this average by the end of the year I will have lost at least 75 lbs. That number seems out of reach right now, but not unattainable. I am NOT trying to rush my weight loss. I am just trying to eat the foods that make me feel the best. And I am not in any way trying to restrict how much I eat. If I am hungry, I eat. No issue.

I will be seeing my doctor again next month and will go over all my health changes and reevaluate my medications. I would love to stop some or all of them! But that will be a decision between me and my doctor, not me and a book. 🙂 I just am feeling great about my health these days. I still have one more week for this experiment but I can say that three weeks in and I still love what I’m doing.

I also recently found some videos on YouTube about women with PCOS using this kind of diet to help with their imbalances. That gave me some hope as well. I am almost finished reading the Maximum Weight Loss book and got to a section on hormones and diet that reinforced my belief that I am doing the best thing possible for my health by avoiding animal products or added fats. I have so much body fat that as I metabolize it I know all of my needs are being met. I also still have some oil on my face and hair coming out from the inside. I am looking forward to when that clears up.

So that’s where I’m at for now. 🙂 Have you made any changes to your diet or lifestyle recently that are working well? What is helping you feel healthy and supported? What could use some tweaking? Share in the comments below!

What do I eat?

I am so thrilled with my recent weight loss. I know the first few weeks and the first few pounds are the easiest to lose, though. My original plan was to try the McDougall program for a month to see how it goes. That was my original plan with a few different plans. 🙂 I like to give them a shot! This time is different, though. I am on a lot more medication than usual and I am sitting at a desk a lot more than usual. In the past I took very few medications regularly besides an allergy pill or ibuprofen for pain management. Now I am taking an insulin sensitizer, a hormone to help with my imbalance, an anti-depressant many of which cause weight gain, and the allergy pill. I am a little overwhelmed by the medication! I finally had to get an organizer so I knew if I took my pills everyday or not! Sitting at the desk is a direct result of my promotion back in March. I love my company and the new job! But I do miss having a higher workspace that I could spend time standing at. With all of these changes I must say that I am absolutely blown away that I have lost so much so easily since switching to this program.

So the next question is what am I actually eating everyday that is causing such easy weight loss? Well, let me tell you! I like to steam or roast whole potatoes to bring with me everywhere. I put them in a gallon sized bag and eat them plain or add a little garlic powder and salt and dip in ketchup. If I have larger potatoes I cut them into a bowl and top with salt and ketchup or make another topping. Last night I bought some beautiful mushrooms that I sliced and cooked with an onion, some garlic, a splash of red wine, a spoonful of tomato paste, chili powder, smoked paprika, and a splash of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. I cooked it down into a delicious reduction and spooned it onto some leftover potatoes. It was so good! I eat a lot of potatoes. I also love sweet potatoes. I sometimes chop them and roast the pieces. Other times I bake them whole and eat them with my hands. Sometimes I add a little cinnamon and salt. I know it sounds like an odd combination, but the sweetness of the potato mixed with the spiciness of the cinnamon really pops against the salt. It is such a tasty combo! I also season winter squashes that way. I eat a lot of sweet potatoes, too, but definitely more regular potatoes. I love the purple ones but Yukon Gold is my favorite variety.

I also am a big fan of snacks. I love salty, crunchy foods that satisfy a munchiness inside. I love pickles for this but try not to eat too many since that is a lot of salt. I also recently found a variety of rice cakes that use brown rice and salt only. They actually taste great to me! They are very messy to eat. But they make noshing while commuting home much more pleasant than having a rumbly in my tumbly. I hate being so hungry when I get home that my tummy hurts, which is easy to have happen since I don’t get home until around 8 pm most days.

I eat a lot of rice, too. My local grocery store has a selection of portioned, microwavable whole grain rices. I have had the regular brown, brown Jasmine, and Forbidden Black. All three were delicious! I don’t even add anything to them. I just eat them and they taste great! Sometimes I cook my own, but lately I have been eating potatoes as my starch of choice. I do thoroughly enjoy barley, as well. If it’s for breakfast I mix in some cinnamon and maple syrup for a warm and hearty start to my day. I also enjoy beans quite a bit. The other day I made a mash out of garbanzo beans with some garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, liquid aminos, lemon juice, and a touch of salt. I was very tasty. I topped it with broccoli slaw and mixed it all up. I also love to make my own pinto beans and then refried beans. I used to use a little oil for the refry, but now I just use enough cooking liquid or water to heat everything up then cook it down to the consistency I love – thick! I have made some white bean dishes as well with some liquid smoke added to the mix for a distinctly bacony aroma. They turn out so tasty!

Occasionally I eat a banana or other fruit, though I have a lot of issues with fresh fruit so I never eat too much. Sometimes we order pizza for dinner. I get some veggies with no cheese. I also make my own pizzas by filling the cornmeal crusts I love with whatever sounds good at the time. Yesterday I decided to get a loaf of bread and some hummus. I ate all the bread including some sweet potato sandwiches. I don’t eat bread everyday, though. But I am still tweaking my diet to get the most out of my digestion. Sometimes it feels like everything is going through too fast and I’m not getting any nutrients. So I decided to eat some bread to let some extra nutrition get absorbed. We also eat pasta occasionally. It’s something my husband M will eat also without a fuss. He always says he doesn’t like cooked tomatoes but the last batch of sauce I made he raved about it, so he can’t be that picky! Mushroom, spinach, onion sauce!

Basically, for now, I am eating whatever sounds good. I am actively working to limit the amounts of fats that I eat. Very few nuts or seeds, hardly any oils, no fats as condiments. I like how I feel when I get most of my nutrition from potatoes or sweet potatoes, both of which will fully support humans! M recently joked about buying a potato farm in Washington state. Sounds good to me!

I would like to add some polenta to my meals. I made it a few times in the past and it is simply amazing when made at home. I want to make a big batch and let it cool then cut into squares or strips and bake for a lovely crunch. That could be dipped into red sauce or topped with refried beans and salsa. Yum! I also started a sourdough starter last night. I am not eating that much bread these days but starters last a long time and it’s a great thing to do myself. I am also interested in trying millet. I have never had that grain on it’s own before. I’m not sure, though. 🙂 Sometimes it’s better to stick with what I’m comfortable with.

So that’s what I eat. If I’m feeling up for the bulk I add some veggies in also. But not too many. I’m not eating anywhere near my daily recommended calorie goal right now so I’m comfortable with more starches. As my weight loss slows I’ll be ready to add more veggies into the mix. I love broccoli, green beans, carrots, parsnips, salads, kale, and many more. It will be easy to add those in. But I’m going to listen to my body and how I feel.

A huge part of what I’m doing is working on healing my relationship with food. If I am hungry, I eat. If I am craving something, I eat it – as long as it fits my health goals. I am not restricting anything that is not actively contributing to my ill-health. This is so freeing! Especially after so many years of following one Diet after another. I am feeling great physically. I have so much energy every day and my mood has dramatically improved! My skin is getting way better, too. I have eczema on my hands that causes them to get rough like sand paper before splitting open and bleeding from dryness. The past few days I have noticed that they are smooth even without applying lotion several times per day. The rough spot near where my wedding ring hits (when my hands are okay enough to actually wear it) is getting better, too. The insane redness and itching have gone way down. I also feel like my face is clearing up. That is trickier, though, since my hormones are so out of whack that I have to take a medicine to help balance them. So that could be causing some of the clearing. In any case, I feel better with a clearer complexion. I feel better with this program. I love coming home and having the energy to walk the dog or do a workout! I feel so good!

Split pea pizza

I have a confession. Sometimes I make really weird things to eat. This is one of those times. I have been in a pizza mood lately. I don’t know what it is I like so much about eating with my hands, but I love it! I also have been on a split pea soup kick lately. So I decided to combine the two!

I have been buying frozen cornmeal pizza crusts at a local natural grocery. They do have a little oil in the ingredient list so I reserve them for more of a treat than a staple. They come in a two pack so I tend to eat them quickly once I open them.

When getting this idea together in my head I made the soup on the thicker side so it would hold up to topping a pizza crust. I also made a fresh batch of brown rice. My first night I spread the rice on first without seasoning it. Then I covered that with the soup and baked it. It turned out alright, but I already saw room for improvement.

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You can see that it held up well and the crust and soup were both plenty flavorful. But I knew it could be better. The second night I put the soup down first. It was chilled so it was very spreadable. I then topped the soup with rice. Next, I seasoned it! A little garlic powder, a touch of salt, and a sprinkle of homemade vegan parmesan. I baked that up and knew as soon as I pulled it out of the oven that I was in for a wonderful meal.

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I didn’t even take any pictures after I cut into this one! That was partly because I was very hungry, but mostly because it was so good! Who knew pea soup and brown rice would be so tasty as a pizza?

Braids, sweat, and tears

This past weekend I went to a music festival in Grass Valley, CA to braid hair with a friend of mine. I have never been to a festival quite like this before. It was celebrating music from all over the world and it was amazing! I even got to indulge in some delicious Caribbean/Jamaican style vegan food. I say indulge because fried gingered plantains were definitely a treat! I have been on such a low fat diet since I started this blog that I ate less than what I would have eaten in years past and still felt a little sick from the oil. But it was so worth it! 🙂

I am not used to so much heat either. Both Saturday and Sunday I was thirsty enough to drink over a gallon of water. Saturday I ate a whole jar of mini dill pickles! I stayed true to myself and ate the gold and sweet potatoes I brought with me for most of my food. I felt in control and prepared, both of which I often don’t feel. It is great to see myself and my health as a priority worth planning for.

While the festival was not as busy as I had hoped in terms of what I was offering, it was still a lot of fun to get out there. I was also able to bring home a few very unique items that I cannot get anywhere else. And I made a few new friends while getting to reconnect with an old one. We shared some sweetly sentimental moments that had both of us in tears. But in the happiest way possible! These all made going out into that heat more than worth it.

I had to be back at work Monday due to an unanticipated staffing change. I had been planning on going to my mom’s Sunday night and then Weight Watchers in the morning. That wasn’t going to happen, though, so I had to improvise. Surprisingly, it is hard to find an early week meeting in my area. But I still had to go get my dog from my mom’s house so I found one on the way our to her on Tuesday morning. I wasn’t expecting too much from my weigh in. Eating a whole jar of pickles puts a lot of salt in the system! Also, I tend to be sensitive to environmental stressors like excess heat! Plus I had all those delicious plantains. So I was prepared to see a gain. But I actually lost over 3 lbs!!! That means in the two weeks that I have been following Dr. McDougall’s plan I have lost 8.8 lbs. That’s a lot!!! I am so excited by that! I must say that this is by far the easiest “diet” I’ve ever done. I get to eat as much as I am hungry for of foods I love. And I never have to be hungry, except at work when I don’t have time to get a snack. 🙂 But that’s more a scheduling thing than a diet thing.

I am still struggling with my mom, though. Yesterday we were at her house for a bit. I brought some brown rice cakes, a banana, and a microwavable package of black rice (if you haven’t had it, it is so good!). I ate all the rice cakes that were left and the rice. I was still hungry. My mom started listing things that she thought I could eat. I am not eating any of them. She then tried to justify why she thought I should eat them. I told her to Google “dr mcdougall maximum weight loss” to see what I am doing. I doubt she will. I wish she would because it is important to me that she knows why I say no to the things she is eating. It is an easy way for her to support me. But I am not holding my breath. I love my mom dearly and I know she loves me, too. She does not understand how to support me in the way I need to be supported, though. So I will take what I can get and make sure I keep prioritizing myself and celebrating my fantastic progress toward health. I think tonight calls for fresh strawberries!

Snacking and packing

I have found that since I am focusing my diet mostly on starches I am eating way more often than I used to. Three meals a day does not work at all anymore. I now eat for most of my 45 – 55 minute drive to work. Just a bite or two every few minutes. Then at work I’m okay until around 12 or 1 at which point I find myself famished! Usually I have some roasted sweet potatoes or baby potatoes. Today I don’t have any so I got a snack tray of sugar snap peas, baby carrots, and cherry tomatoes. I trashed the ranch dressing and honestly don’t even miss it. Yay for that progress! It helps to have a snack since my lunch break is still almost two hours away. Planning for snacks that are whole foods (not flour-based), not fruits, vegan (no cheese or meats), and very low fat is a lot harder than I expected. But snacks are actually a necessary part of my day.

This weekend I am heading to a music festival to do some fancy hair braiding with a friend. This will be the first time I’m not going to be home at some point in the day to prepare meals for the next day. I am a little nervous about it. I am planning on bringing a bunch of cooked potatoes of varying sizes along with some chunked and roasted sweet potatoes. I am truly worried about bringing enough food. I definitely did not expect to eat as often as I find myself eating on this kind of program. I also have applesauce squeeze pouches that are great if I feel like my blood sugar is a little low. I think between the starches and simple sugars of the applesauce along with some blanched green beans and roasted broccoli and cauliflower should be sufficient. I am going to be working long days so I know I’ll need the food to make it through.

So tonight I’m going to wash and chop the potatoes and sweet potatoes. I will cook them tomorrow. I also got other veggies that I can steam and roast. Tonight’s dinner will be a simple one of fast split pea soup with rice (can you see a pattern in my tastes?). I already soaked AND steamed the peas and the rice will be done cooking when I get home. I really like programmable appliances! I will make sure all the dishes and laundry are done before I go to bed tonight, too. So much work! I hope it’s all worth it, both in terms of how I feel after the weekend and how profitable it is. I’m mostly just hoping for enough money to pay for a class at my local Junior College this fall. I’m thinking of making another career change so this would be the first class toward that training. I’ll talk more about that as it unfolds. For now, I’m just going to work on making sure I have everything I need to snack and pack!

Starch up, weight down

This week I actually followed the McDougall plan for weight loss as closely as possible. I even went out to eat a few times. I had Chinese food, pizza and sushi, all McDougall style! When I went to Weight Watchers yesterday I was down 5.6 lbs. I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. I snack all day on whole foods, make delicious meals, and love all of it.

Here are a few of the things I’ve made this week. I will do more posts soon about how to make delicious meals like these. But for now, here are pictures and ideas!

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Sautéed cabbage with boiled potatoes

For this meal I boiled some white and yellow potatoes until they were soft. While those were cooking, I sliced an onion and started simmering it while I sliced a head of green cabbage. I seasoned the onions with some garlic powder, poultry seasoning, and smoked paprika. When it smelled good, I added the cabbage to the pan and cooked it down. I also threw in a touch of maple syrup and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. To serve, I smashed some potatoes in my plate then topped with a pile of cabbage. It was amazing!

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Barley with cinnamon

This meal was very simple. I soaked some barley for longer than I should have. It actually sprouted! Then I cooked it at high pressure for 15 minutes. While still warm I stirred in some cinnamon and a splash of maple syrup. I ate more today with a touch of vanilla. It was even better! I think it would be great with a sliced banana, too, if you can eat that much!

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Repurposed split pea soup

This is two partially eaten containers of left over split pea soup with rice. I thinned it with water and added dulse flakes and a little salt. Dulse is a sea vegetable that is sold as sprinkles. It tastes a little like the sea, but it adds a nice salty depth to whatever you add it to. I feel like I’m getting trace nutrients when I eat it, but that could be just me. I love dishes that taste great or better as they age. Soup is always like that!

These are easy to make, delicious meals that fill me up and support my body. I love that I can eat until I am totally satisfied and I never feel stuffed. I just feel energetic and happy! The best part for me, though, is that I do not crave sweets. I can look at candy in the store without wanting it at all. Even cookies which usually are a big weakness for me hold no appeal. That is huge! I am excited to see how this week goes.

What are some of your easy recipes that help you feel good? What do you love to make a big batch of because it tastes even better the next day?

Split Pea Soup methodology

Last time I mentioned making split pea soup for dinner. I did, it was amazing, I forgot to take a nice looking picture. 🙂 I also am someone who usually uses recipes for cooking (not baking) as merely a suggestion for how to possibly prepare a dish. So in this post I will share how I made the soup, and how I could have made it better. There will be very few specifics but lots of ideas for how to make a delicious bowl of pea-soupy-goodness including serving ideas.

So let’s get into it! First I chopped an onion. I have seen lots of people who know how to get the perfect dice by leaving the root end on and no matter what I do I can’t seem to get it. But I did recently see a tip for a no-tear way to chop onions and that was to keep your mouth shut the entire time you cut it. Don’t even talk! I gave it a try and it worked! But it was only one onion and I always cut along the latitude orientation first anyway, so I don’t usually have too much issue. It’s good to have more tips to not crying while chopping onions though!

Put the chopped onion in a medium pot with a small amount of water. Heat on medium to medium-high heat until fragrant and translucent. While that’s cooking, chop some garlic. When the onions are cooked enough for you, throw the garlic right in there. Add more water if it dries up and starts sticking. I like to season the veggies as they cook as well. This time I used poultry seasoning (the sage is so earthy!) but feel free to use whatever herbs and spices you fancy. I also used smoked paprika. Something about the smokiness and the split peas is so good to me!

When everything starts to smell really good, add some dried split peas. I used two cups of mixed green and yellow. In retrospect, I wish I’d soaked them. It took a lot longer to cook them than I wanted. But if you have extra cooking time it doesn’t matter as much. Now add enough water to fill the pot as full as the amount of soup you want to make. I also added a bay leaf here and a few drops of liquid smoke. Put a lid on to speed up cooking time or simply simmer until the peas are soft. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and burning. This is my favorite thing to do because every time I stir I get to smell and taste the progress and adjust the seasoning as I go. When the peas were soft enough to eat I used an immersion (stick) blender to puree most of the peas. Then I put in a squirt of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. I ended up with a gorgeous, thick, hearty, chunky pea soup that was absolutely amazing!

Pea Soup 2I served the soup over rice. I asked my husband to cook brown rice but he made white rice by mistake. Not the end of the world. We both put rice into our bowls then ladled some pea soup over it and salted to taste. It was great as a topping for the rice and mixed up so the rice was more part of the soup. Play around and see how you like it. I also think this soup would be great over baked or mashed potatoes or with any other whole grain. Feel free to season or garnish with fresh herbs or lemon zest. Both are delish!

Next time I make this I will soak my peas! Soaked legumes and whole grains cook much faster. I also will make this on an afternoon that I am not at work and can actually take my time. The night I made this I started cooking around 8:30 pm and didn’t eat until around 9:30 which is very late, even for me! I also will take a pretty picture when I first serve myself. As I’m sure you can imagine, I was pretty darned hungry by the time the soup was ready. This picture is of my second bowl and you can see that I stirred the rice into the soup. It was great, though!

Do you like split pea soup? How do you make it? What is your favorite way to serve it? Share in the comments!

Starchy goodness

I’ve been reading a lot about the McDougall Plans and am currently reading his latest books. If you haven’t heard of these, check out this website. There is a ton of great information along with recipes and a wonderful community. You can also find his published books. I am working my way through The Starch Solution now. One section talked about a challenge to add more starch into your day. It is not as easy as it sounds. But it seems like it may finally be the thing that helps me actually get to a healthy weight.

If you read my previous posts, you know that I have been walking around with extra fat on my body since childhood – 7 years old, to be specific. I am now 33. That’s an awfully long time to be fat. And I don’t mean like “I just got my period and am bloated” fat or “I just ate a whole bowl of ice cream” fat. I mean like obese to morbidly obese to super morbidly obese. I don’t ever remember my belly not hanging down in front. I have tried everything I could think of (and afford) to lose weight over the years. But nothing has resulted in lasting weight loss. I can usually lose a little, around 30 lbs. Then I stop losing. When I stop losing, I stop following the Diet I’m on. I mean, what is the point of restricting all of my eating when I’m not even losing weight? Often I try harder for a few weeks. But if I go a month with no results I quit. My husband, M, says I just need to stick to it. But he doesn’t really like living with me when I’m on a Diet. It’s no fun and I often make him miserable because I don’t want to watch him eat ice cream in front of me when I can’t have any. The best eating plans for me let us eat pretty much the same stuff that he can add a little something else to.

When I followed the Paleo diet, I would cook the meat and veggie dishes that supported me and then he could add in some bread or something else I wouldn’t eat. Since going whole-food plant-based he has not eaten much meat. Now I’m really focusing on starches. Last night he cut up roots – potatoes, parsnips, and carrots – to boil for a mash. He also threw in some peeled garlic cloves. When I got home everything was so soft and smelled so good! I pulled out some of the wonderfully flavorful liquid (just starchy, garlicky water at that point), then drained and whipped with a hand mixer. I added in the reserved liquid to get the right consistency then seasoned with some smoked paprika and dried parsley. The parsnips were so sweet it was almost a candied taste. And the garlic balanced that perfectly. I added salt to my bowl (okay, both of them). It was a wonderful dinner. M made himself a salad to go along with his. He snacks a lot before I get home and throughout the evening whereas I tend to eat one main evening meal.

The hardest part for me with this kind of eating is that I get hungry again before I really have time to eat. I work at an in-store bank so I am very visible at work. I don’t have any private way to eat unless I leave my work and go to the café area. Sometimes I can use a seating area in our branch to snack, but sometimes someone is working at that desk. I find that the amount of food I need to eat to not feel hungry is too much for me to eat at once. I can only fit so much in before my body is done. Then I need to wait for more room. This is what happened today. I steamed some baby gold potatoes last night. This morning I put them in a big bag with a tiny bit of water, some garlic powder, and salt. I shook the bag to distribute then ate them on my drive to work. I feel like I ate a decent amount, but now I’m hungry and I still have two and half hours to go before I take my lunch break. I think I need to sneak away to snack a little more.

I also baked some sweet potatoes last night. I brought a bunch of them with me today, too. I usually eat baked sweet potatoes with butter or coconut oil, cinnamon, and salt. But I followed the McDougall recipe for baked yams then left them in the oven over night (I didn’t want to crack the glass baking dish by putting it into the fridge hot and it was bedtime). This morning when I opened them up they were so moist! I snuck a few bites while I packed them up. I think just a little cinnamon and salt would be perfect with no added fat. Honestly, even plain was delicious! I promise I will start taking pictures as I cook and eat moving forward. I know it’s more fun to get to see the treats as I make them.

Today is the first day that I am following the principles of the McDougall Maximum Weight Loss Plan – sort of. I don’t have much in the way of salads, cooked veggies, or soups available to me today. So it’s more starch than anything else. But I am not eating any bread or pasta or anything else with added fats. When we sat down to eat last night I told M that I’m not sure if this truly will be it or not – I have lots of experience with things promising the ultimate health and falling short – but if it is it will be the best diet ever! I was thrilled to get to eat real potatoes mashed delightfully with other roots. If you have never tried that, try it! Pick veggies you like and maybe one you’ve never tried to make a complex tasting dish that fills you up in your heart and tummy. Mmm!

I am also cutting down my fruit consumption. I don’t eat much, but I have been eating a dried fruit bar for breakfast. It’s easy and fills me up. I just don’t actually eat that much fruit in general. I have a lot of issues with raw fruit that cause rashes and sores and at the extreme painful swelling in my mouth. So I have to be pretty careful and it’s easier to just avoid it altogether most of the time.

I am currently on Weight Watchers as well so I am using these guidelines to fit the Simply Filling plan. I am curious what my weight will be when I weigh in on Sunday morning. In the meantime, I am very happy to eat the foods I am eating. They really are comfort foods! I am not sure what dinner will look like tonight, but I’m sure I’ll make something good. It’s a little cooler today and was overcast when I came to work. Maybe tonight is a split pea soup kind of night. We have some bulgur that cooks quickly or I could ask M to cook some brown rice before I get home. The soup itself is very fast. If that’s what I make I’ll share my technique and pictures next time. 🙂

If you have any experience adding in starch foods with positive results, please share! If you have any particular favorites, let me know! Any weight loss methods that worked for you? Comment! Talk to you soon!

PCOS part 2

Several months later I had the opportunity to go back to an old job. It meant moving again, this time away from my mom. We ended up where we still are today renting from my in-laws. It’s good to still be with family. I finally have decent insurance again and am working my way through my medical issues, one at a time. Last year I tried to build up some savings specifically for health purposes. I found a doctor that could also be my woman’s health doctor so I thought I was good. Not so much. Turns out, this doctor didn’t listen to anything I said. She also was complete unsympathetic when I told her about the miscarriages then told me about her own pregnancies. And when I lost 25 lbs between visits her response was that the first 25 was the easy part. Um, what?! I was not impressed. So I stopped going to her.

This January I made a point of finding a new doctor. I didn’t get to see her for a few months. I was still cloaked in the dark mist of my depression. By this point my younger sister had met someone, moved to Europe, gotten married, and was pregnant. I wanted to be pregnant so badly. It caused a little problem, actually, because she didn’t want to talk to me about anything and hurt me so she cut me out of everything. The mist closed in tighter. By the time I got to the doctor I was in so much emotional pain that I am honestly surprised I didn’t actually do anything physical. I cried through the entire appointment. But I told the truth. Dr. N put me on an antidepressant right away and gave me a referral to the behavioral health department. I can honestly say that after a few months of medicine and therapy I am seeing the world clearly again. The mist has retreated to the horizon of my mind. I know it’s still there, out in the distance, but I can see the world around me. I can feel love and friendship again. I am able to feel happy for the first time in years! I didn’t realize how far down I was but I am so glad I’m not there now!

Along with taking care of my health I of course wanted to see about my fertility as well. I got a referral for a specialist who I saw in June. She gave me a thorough exam and ordered some tests. We talked about my current conditions as well as the realistic options for the future. Dr. D is the first doctor I’ve seen since the first doctor diagnosed me who actually knew about PCOS. She explained to me the higher risks of diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and more that come along with the hormonal dysfunction. It was enough to feel like a bucket of ice water had been dumped on me. I felt the immediate need to research everything to heal myself. One problem – there is no standard treatment for PCOS!

I started reading blogs and buying books from people who have medical training. I found one nurse with a book that I connected with – sort of. She recommends a whole-foods, plant-based diet and daily exercise. Sounds good! The problem I had when reading her book was her writing itself. I would have been happier just reading the first page to follow that lifestyle change! So I told my husband that I needed to stop eating meat. I googled meal plans for this kind of diet and found several links to the Forks over Knives website. I saw their movie on Netflix recently so we watched it. I had been vegan before so most of it was nothing new. The biggest difference for me is the switch to whole foods. And that is not an easy switch. I went out and bought beans, grains, nuts and seeds. After a week of cooking whole foods I realized that trying to cook this way when I don’t get home until around 8 pm everyday was not realistic. So I took the money I had been saving for an activity monitor and bought an electric rice cooker/food steamer and a stove top pressure cooker.

The first night I knew I made the right choice! I came home to delicious smelling rice cooked to perfection. It took about 30 minutes in all for the beans to cook. I made a quick sauce and we had forbidden rice (black rice) and adzuki beans with broccoli. It was so good! The rice was sweet and almost flowery. The beans were incredible. The broccoli was added toward the end of the steaming by my husband who promptly forgot about it. It was totally over cooked. But, with the sauce and all stirred together, it was amazing even the next day for lunch. It feels good to have the proper tools to prepare foods that support my body.

I have also gone back to the best resources I used when I was vegan before. I am constantly stalking www.vegancoach.com and www.drmcdougall.com for inspiration and health information. Both have so much science based information that is broken down into real world tips and tricks. I am actually amazed that more people don’t follow their advice. I also saw that Dr. McDougall wrote a new book about starch and its vital role in the human diet. I bought a copy and am working my way through it – when I have time to read. I am curious to see the results of following his program since I have PCOS. My body doesn’t work properly at anything so will adding more starch help regulate it? Have I been stressing my system even more by eating so much meat and dairy? It is quite possible.

I spent the 4th of July weekend with my mom. She is vegetarian, but relies heavily on eggs and dairy for her meals. When I said I wouldn’t even eat eggs she questioned why as though I were insulting her for not wanting a hard-boiled egg. I explained that with my hormonal imbalance it is important to add as few from the environment as possible to let the medications work on fixing the issues. That was enough to appease her for the moment, but all weekend she was offering me foods that I just told her I do not want to eat. I found myself in a stress pattern that caused cravings for snack type foods that I don’t eat at home. I ate a lot of tortilla chips and vegan ice cream. While I wouldn’t normally eat that kind of stuff in that quantity I am glad I had that experience and can recognize what caused the cravings. I was not actually hungry. But the stress of the party I wasn’t expecting to host along with the abundance of easy to eat foods put me into that habit. As soon as we got home I knew I was back to my normal place with food being just part of the scenery unless I actually need some nourishment.

This is definitely a learning process for me. My goal with this blog is to document my progress as I work to claim health and vitality for the first time in my adult life. There is no cure for PCOS. I don’t know if my emotional issues with food will ever fully heal, either. But every day, every meal, I am choosing the most health promoting foods I can. At this point, I am hopeful that these changes will positively affect me. That’s the best I can do for now.

This was the second in a two part series about my struggle with PCOS and how I ended up where I am today. See part one here.

PCOS – a life sentence

I got married in 2007. We decided to try for a baby right away and we were so excited to start building our family. After a few months off the pill I knew something was wrong. My cycle was very irregular with extended periods that left me miserable. I tried fertility diets, herbs, and supplements. We were in such a state of transit that there was not much stable in our lives. For the first several years of our relationship we moved more times than I can remember. Some places we just stayed at but never quite moved into; other places we thought we’d found a home but had to leave. Most of the moves also meant a complete change in financial stability. It was incredibly stressful.

Eventually we found ourselves living in a 4-season army-style tent behind my grandma’s house. We were there long enough we finally got some low-income assistance. That meant my first doctor visit in a few years. The doctor I saw referred me to a fertility specialist who would take the insurance I had – three hours away. But when you are desperate you take what you can get. So off we went. She diagnosed me with PCOS. I have a close friend who was diagnosed with this in high school so I had at least heard of it. Her recommendation was to lose weight, take a drug for type II diabetes, and check back. The medicine made me feel weird. It was very rough on my stomach. After a few months I didn’t see any changes other than the constant discomfort so I stopped taking it. We also never made it back to the doctor.

We ended up moving in with my mom who lived in a completely different direction. There we were no longer eligible for the same insurance so I basically had to start over in terms of my health. The good news is that I finally found a job, made real friends, and had the emotional support of my mom. Within a few months I noticed I was very sensitive to smells, my period was late, my body felt different, and I was nauseated all the time. I felt this way for several weeks, but every at-home test came back negative. I went to the doctor and requested a blood test. I asked what else would cause those symptoms. She said there was nothing she could think of. The blood test was inconclusive. My hCG levels were elevated, but not enough to diagnose a pregnancy. Shortly after, it all came out. I knew in my heart that I had already lost that baby. I was devastated. I stayed in bed for a few days.

Finally I got up and tried to put the pieces back together. I tried to add in as many nutrient dense foods as possible and found myself starting at website after website promoting the Paleo diet. I bought a book, gave it a try, lost about 30 pounds, and missed another cycle combined with nausea. This time I was tracking my BBT (basal body temperature). I saw that my temperature was elevated, so I took an at-home test. Negative. After about four weeks of the temperature staying steady, it started to slowly decrease. I was crushed. I knew it was coming – I even told one of my friends that I knew another miscarriage was coming – but I was absolutely broken when the bleeding finally started. It happened Christmas Eve Day 2012. I was at work cutting hair. One person called in sick so we were already short staffed. It was also right before everyone sees family so we were beyond busy. Between haircuts I had to go into the backroom to cry for a few minutes before I could continue. I went through pad after pad. When I came home I lay in bed crying for hours. My husband had no idea how to help me. I was so lost.

I remember the darkness that entered my heart that day. It felt like a black swirling mist that only let me see what was directly around me. Everything else was hidden, damp, terrifying. I felt so isolated. It was like being lost in a dense fog at night. I couldn’t see anything beyond the pain, couldn’t feel anything beyond the dark. For a while I threw myself harder into Paleo everything. I did a sugar detox even though I was already following the guidelines for the strictest level. Then I tried the autoimmune protocol. I still had “symptoms” that this was supposed to cure! But, of course, it didn’t. As I write these words, with the distance of a few years, I think I was really trying to find something I could control. I was still fat and had just lost two pregnancies within 6 months of each other. Maybe I was also trying to punish myself for not being able to carry the babies to term. I am still not sure. But I know that no matter what I did it didn’t fix it. And I was truly miserable.

Finally I gave up on Paleo. I gained a lot of weight after that. I’m sure some of that was also punishment. I truly felt like a failure at everything. I also grew to hate every single day that I had to go to work. Both miscarriages started there. Having to be reminded of the pain and anguish every time I clocked in was like rubbing salt in a fresh wound. I was so not okay for so long.

This is the first in a two-post series about my struggle with PCOS, infertility, diet, and how I eventually found whole-food, plant-based nutrition.