Buying and cooking food like this is reconnecting me to my convictions and ethics. It's not cool and it's different than what our doctors, advertisers and government has told us. Yes, I have to adapt certain menu options when I go out to eat and I don't want to eat fast food (though I do have cravings for sure). I'm THAT person now (again).
I’ve been getting more comfortable with eating keto. As I’ve mentioned before I’ve been looking at it as an opportunity for creativity in the kitchen and it’s actually relaxed my paranoid tendencies towards what potential food could be harming me. I just make sure my macros are on point. Usually a keto diet is 5% of the weight of your food is carbs, 60% is fat and 35% is protein (please note that this can be and is very different for different people, do what works for you or consult a doctor). When you look at it like that, it seems complicated if you aren’t already aware of what macronutrient ratios are in the foods you eat. Fortunately there are a lot of apps out there that can help you calculate it. It takes a little bit of work but after a week or so you should be able to figure it out without having to input every single ingredient.
Personally, things have been going just ok. My functional medicine doctor (FMD) wanted me to have more blood work done. She said that she could do it herself for a fee or send my General Practitioner a letter with the reasons for particular blood work and hope that he gives me the requisition which would then be covered through OHIP. Well, turns out I was way too optimistic because as I was telling the FMD how sure I was my GP would give me the requisition I could tell she had heard this before.
She was right.
My doctor opened up the letter in his files and closed the document in an instant and asked me how I was feeling. This was after I had told him that the FMD had sent him a letter and I had wanted the lab tests done. First of all he had told me that most people live with parasites and it’s normal to have them and secondly he didn’t give me (all of) the blood work the FMD recommended I needed. And then to throw all the parasite info out of the window he gave me an OHIP covered requisition for a stool sample when I had already done one (on my dime). I do respect that he has his own practice, though, and relies on his own morals. No hate to general practitioners!
So I decided to just go through my FMD to do the blood work which cost about $240. Not only was the (fasting) blood work a really uncomfortable 30min poking around looking for veins (not done by her by the way, it was at a lab) but she had written one of the blood sample requisitions wrong. Very annoying and disconcerting. She won’t charge me to retake the sample but I just wanted to get it over with. I was about to travel to Europe for a month and was hoping to get everything out of the way before I left so I could bring the appropriate supplements with me.
Either way, the update on my health is very positive. I feel like I have more energy, less crampage during my PMS and I’m REGULAR!!! Hallelujah. Yes talking about poop is TMI but I didn’t want to hold back in case you are also going through the same thing. But ya, I was borderline in IBS mode. Every. Month.
Before seeing the FMD I was obsessed with discerning what food was causing me to bloat instantly. It was maddening because it felt as though I would get incredibly painful bloating (I’m talking instant 3 month preggers look and, aesthetic aside, it was PAINFUL). It has only happened once recently and I wondered and wondered what I ate differently than what I had been since going keto and then it hit me – processed meat! Right? It was a generic ‘ham’ that I had while working on a film shoot that was in a frittata. Oh, bonus was that the eggs were from a carton however the ingredients on that were just eggs. Either way, I had a lot of processed food that day even though it was high fat. It was wildly painful.
I should also mention that I got a little too caught up on forcing my body to fast. I had mentioned it before but intermittent fasting (IF) is a common way of eating alongside eating keto. I was trying to push my breakfast too late in the day and waiting until noon to eat. I had felt so awful despite eating a normal amount of calories for my body. I did some research and although some people suggest eating within an 8 hour window (for example you only eat from 12 pm to 8pm and nothing before or after until the next day) women need to eat within a 10 hour window AND all I changed was that I just ate when I got up.
Unfortunately I succumbed to the hype that I would have superhero powers and only run on my body fat after being keto for a little over a month but nahhhh, that didn’t happen. Well, it is according to my daily testing (I test with pee sticks – fun!) I am in ketosis but I just cant fully function on stored body fat in the morning. My FMD said that I may not be genetically predisposed to fasting. Either way, I eat as soon as I get up and then eat two more meals during the day when I’m hungry. Snacking at night isn’t really a problem for me unless there’s popcorn or Doritos around.
Wait, what about Doritos flavoured popcorn?
Ahh.. sitting in the sun while writing this is a nice relief from the really crazy weather we were having in Ontario. Dare I get a HOT COFFEE instead of a cold one? The answer is yes, haha.
So I got my results back from a stool test I took via my Functional Medicine doctor. AAAAND I have a yeast overgrowth as well as 2 parasites. FUN. So I had the choice between taking herbal supplements (which, having studied the basics of herbalism from an herbalist there are some pretty powerful herbs out there) or wait to convince my GP Family Doctor to prescribe me something. I felt as though I would risk it and try the herbal supplements. I mean, I guess the prescription medicine would be a risk, too, given how sensitive my system has been lately.
People often ask me why I’m gluten intolerant, specifically what physical symptoms made me realize that I was. None. I really didn’t feel like I was suffering from chronic IBS or anything else gastrointestinal except during my period. I thought it was normal for me to have horrible symptoms during it. Guess I was wrong and guess I’ve had a PARASITE contributing to it (let’s hope when it clears I will no longer have those symptoms.)
Back to how I found out. I suspected I had some sort of food intolerance when I would drink wine or beer and feel my throat closing up. Scary. So I went to one Ontario Health covered allergist and they told me the couldn’t test for a food allergy. Okay. So then I found out a NATE allergist practiced in Ottawa as recommended by my friend. LOOKING BACK, I question the legitimacy of that allergy test but that’s another story.
The allergist told me to cut out all grains except for quinoa and rice, all dairy, all legumes, all nightshade vegetables (potato, tomato, eggplant, peppers) and sulphites (which was in the alcoholic beverages I was having an allergic reaction to). Around the same time, I was suffering from very severe paranoia, depression and panic attacks. Because I saw an alternative allergist, she conducted a thorough health history so I listed these things. She told me about how eliminating these food groups as well as supplementing with a few different vitamins could help heal me.
WELL, I was fucking desperate to live, literally. I went with it full force to the incredible annoyance of my employees at the time (I made gourmet sandwiches for a living so I completely understand), my Italian (now) in laws (though they never showed it) and my friend group at the time. Said friends were so convinced that I was lying to them that I had an allergy to alcohol to avoid hanging out with them. I know, how high school.
Anyway, I know this now, but these food groups are also cut out of an Autoimmune Protocol meal plan (kind of like a deeper intervention version of a Paleo / Primal diet) as well as Dr. Gundry's Plant Paradox. So whether or not that allergy test was legitimate or not, it allowed my gut to heal and for my psychological symptoms to dissapate, most likely due to the fact that I was actually absorbing nutrients again and therefore my nervous system began functioning properly. Not only that but my skin eczema went away as well as chronic hip and knee pain I was suffering. Wild. This was a point in my career where I realized that food can be healing and that I would incorporate it into my work as a chef.
I know this is a long entry but I also want to speak from the point of view of people like Michael Pollan and Sally Fallon, two proponents of eating grains and dairy how our first farmers did. These two, and rightly so, argue that grains and dairy aren’t inherently bad, but it is how the modern food industry has processed them that eliminates our ability to digest them. I spent many a month eating grains solely this way and eliminating dairy prior to my allergy test with little physical benefit but there could be other reasons why I wasn’t feeling well. I was mostly vegetarian and I now know that we need animal fats to absorb certain vitamins in our body.
I know!! It’s complicated but only because we have been so far removed from the natural way of eating. Plant Paradox author Dr. Gundry is gaining some traction too along the with many parallels to Pollan and Fallon. He has found that our digestibility, particularly of legumes and nightshade vegetables, need to be processed how people did during pre-industrial times. A lot of it is in the science!
I would like to suggest the following advice that pushed me to finally dish out the cash monies and pay for a Functional Medicine doctor. If you try a diet and heal, that’s great. It’s even better if you can work with someone who can monintor your symptoms and understand your blood work. I chose this much more costly approach because I had been tired of guessing what foods I ate affected me in which way. I think I now realize, though it's interesting to know, it's not what's most important. I want to approach food in a healthy way and and not have it rule my life. I'm happy I spent some years obessing over it because I learned a lot about myself and the way food impacts our well being. But now, after my gut heals a bit, I hope to not think about it so much.
Well.. a few weeks have passed and I’m feeling pretty amazing.. not gonna lie. Ok, well, except for that massive headache I had two days ago. It was just as bad as when I first started Keto. I think I pushed my intermittent fasting a little too much.
The idea of intermittent fasting is that one tries to have one open window a day where no food is consumed for 12-16 hours. It might sound extreme but it’s more like, finish dinner at 7pm, don’t eat the next day until 7am. For some, they get so ‘keto adapted’ (primarily using fat molecules for energy instead of glucose) that they don’t feel hungry until lunch time. I tried that the other day and a) probably didn’t drink nearly enough water that morning or b) I’m just not suited for a 16 hour fast. I’m down with that. I like breakfast anyway! The overarching idea is that without insulin in your blood being raised often, you are less likely to snack and truly are aware to then eat when you are hungry / need calories and not need to feed the insulin blood glucose!
A lot of information out there for the keto diet is male-centric. There are no ideal parameters for either female or male however a lot of the information out there is biased towards men. That being said, I’m awaiting my next period with extreme curiosity (mostly trepidation) because my hopes are that my hormones & IBS will be mitigated by this monitored diet change (plus herbal medication and supplements as given to me based on my symptoms by my Functional Medicine Doctor).
I was speaking with a friend of mine about how to approach speaking about my dysmenorrhea on the blog and she reminded me that women need more information online about it. To eliminate the taboo of speaking about periods is pretty important in our opinion because periods are such a clear indication of health and, hell, 50% of the fricken world HAS (or will / has had) THEM.
Back to my keto diet reform, I’m no longer scared of how it may limit my enjoyment of food. I actually feel like I have MORE freedom than on a Whole30 or anything an allergist / health practitioner has suggested I omit from my diet. I’m finding that dairy doesn’t affect me nearly as much. I had no idea that there was a concept that one can be carbohydrate intolerant. It makes sense that dairy would aggravate me if I coupled such a high fat food with something high carb (pizza anyone?). LATTEES FOREVER! It’s wild.
So now that I am slowly eating more dairy and finding my limit with that, I am curious to try something with gluten in it again.. so long as I don’t eat more than 30 grams of net carbs in a meal. This means that my main worry (trying food I cook for clients or for recipe development) won’t be an issue so long as I don’t exceed how many carbs my body can take. Food freedom, ya’ll.
I also have gotten over any orthorexia fears because of this. I initially felt as though I needed to be extremely diligent and not have an OUNCE of refined sugar, grain, potato in my body. Having keto sticks at my disposal, I can measure my body’s reaction after eating a bite of cake or some battered food and make sure I am still in ketosis. I don’t measure it after every meal if I don’t consume anything too carb heavy.
I have also been listening to some good Keto podcasts and a lot of them always have an encouraging message to not beat yourself up if you eat something you’re not ‘allowed’ to. I’ve really been self aware when it comes to how I speak to myself about food to make sure I’m not approaching this dietary change with self hatred or perfection.
This podcast was really good at addressing the fact that women have been marketed diets their whole lives, a lot of which have rules to follow. It’s great for those who are interested in making any dietary change that has been prescribed for your health without feeling pressure on oneself to be perfect following it. Be patient and do it gradually for maximum success! The only ‘rule’ I would suggest is to eliminate negative and self destructive language about ANYTHING you eat or are thinking about eating. Easier said than done but there are more and more educated women speaking about the concept of Food Freedom.
What has been that one habit or food that you've come to peace with or have struggled with your relationship with.