This post has been bouncing back in forth in my brain for the last week or so. Frankly, it is one of those posts that would be easier to not write, but I always want to be very honest with my readers and share my experience in the hopes that it will help someone else.
Here’s the deal: moderation matters when you change your diet. A lot of almost anything (except water!) isn’t always better. I grew up in a home that was all about moderation. Eat whatever but in moderation. It worked for us! We grew up drinking whole milk and eating homemade food every night. I learned to love food but not to overeat. My mom, a French teacher, adopted the Parisian way of eating. We ate rich delicious food but in small quantities.
After moving out and discovering my gluten intolerance I started to do more research on how to fuel my body best. I discovered sites like Elena’s Pantry that inspired me to not just cook gluten-free, but to cook grain-free! I became very interested in reading about nutrition and how to make sure the way I was feeding my family was going to set them up for success.
Every time I read about families that ate 100% paleo, I felt like somehow they had it dialed in. Each time I attempted this it just didn’t work. It was either cost prohibitive, too much of a time sucker, or just plain exhausting. So we settled on the 80/20 rule and ate really clean. This worked really well and I was feeling the best I’d felt in a long time.
During this time I read It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways by Melissa Hartwig. I felt like this book was so enlightening and I had so many “ah-ha” moments with it. It really brought together all the research I’d been doing on my own and convinced me that whole30 was the right path for me and my family. I read several passages aloud to my husband and he agreed to go all in and do it with me!
What could go wrong with eliminating grains (weren’t we already doing that 80%?), sugar, legumes, dairy and processed food? Nothing. I was so excited. When we started, it was initially easier for me. I felt pretty good just a little deprived but was fine. My husband was exhausted and really hungry. We kept at it. We were committed. Around day ten I realized that my allergies were significantly better and my TMJ was almost non-existent. Yay for healing my gut. I also got pretty handy in the kitchen (hello homemade mayo!) and became a ninja at reading labels.
I spent hours cooking meals like the chicken piccata above. The time in the kitchen (though I love to cook) wasn’t exactly my favorite, but I felt like it was a fair trade off for how we were going to feel! Unfortunately, my endometriosis pain got much worse during this time. I knew that it probably wasn’t because of the whole30, but just happening around the same time. I’d find myself laying down on the couch most evenings hurting and 100% spent. My sweet husband would do a round of dishes for me, while I sat down with the heating pad. Usually, I don’t feel bad several nights in a row, but just have a couple of days a month that I am really not feeling well.
We thought I’d probably need to have another surgery, so we made an appointment with my doctor. This is one of the main reasons we ended up stopping whole30 along with the other ones I shared in my initial post Why We Stopped Whole30. After I finally stopped whole30, I felt pretty rough. I was running to the bathroom all the time and felt like I had a UTI. One doctor trip and two specialists later, I had a diagnosis. I have severe interstitial cystitis.
At the risk of oversharing, it’s a painful bladder condition that can be made worse by diet. Y’all, it was everything I was eating during whole30. Nuts, avocados, dates, bacon, tomatoes, a slew of other veggies, chili powder, onions, garlic, and most fruit. Whole30 severely damaged my bladder. Was this condition already there? Absolutely. But whole30 definitely aggravated it and now I need to be on prescription medicine. On top of the new medicine, I got a two-page list of food that I can’t eat for five years. I am not going to lie, I felt like crying. No coffee, no chocolate, no alcohol, no fruit (except pears and blueberries), no tomatoes, no bacon, and no processed foods. Anything that is high acidity or high in potassium is a no-go for me. I kept reading over the list. What was I going to eat? Without gluten or soy, my diet is already limited. I lost four pounds in a week because I just couldn’t find anything to eat.
I was disappointed because while whole30 wasn’t a perfect fit for me it did help my gut and healed some of my other chronic issues. In my reading, I found that people who adhered to the strict IC diet and ate gluten-free ended up malnourished. I was even considering going back on gluten until I read research on gluten sensitivity that links to pelvic pain like interstitial cystitis and endometriosis. And then it dawned on me, moderation is key. If whole30 taught me anything it’s that all of our bodies are different and maybe going to the extreme isn’t best. All things in moderation is my new mantra. My kids can have cake, but one slice. Yes, I still have restrictions for myself. I am gluten-free, I am soy-free, and I trying to learn to eat IC friendly foods. For now, I am saying no to tomatoes, lemons, and things that are extremely acidic, but I am still eating nuts and food that I know to make me feel good. Moderation matters! If there’s anyone reading this that feels guilt over how you are feeding your family, I want to encourage you that what’s a good fit for someone else’s family, may not work for you! That’s totally fine. Listen to how you feel! Pay attention to what seems to make your kids feel yucky. Take their health into your hands and feel the liberty to tweak things the way you see best!
Note: I do not think that whole30 is a bad diet. In fact, I think that it could probably really help a lot of people especially if you already have a bad relationship with food. However, if you start having symptoms arise I’d strongly urge you to check in with a doctor!
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