Updates on the Crunchy Journey

Six years ago when I first started paleo I did great! I easily lost 40 pounds (of which I have kept 20 off), had great energy levels, good sleep most nights. Then I moved and started a new full time job and after a few months fell off the wagon – I’ve yet to get back on for a sustained amount of time.

In the meantime I’ve struggled with GI issues, fatigue, anxiety and in the last year numbness in my extremities, muscle fasiculations, back pain, muscle and joint pain, and abdominal pain above and beyond my usual IBS symptoms. This started me down the path of blood tests and imaging studies, visits with neurologists and GI specialists, even a liver biopsy. Somewhat scary lab results (like a high ESR and CRP) and most recently to autoimmune markers that point to a strong likelihood of RA (though I have not yet had an official diagnosis of anything).

As somewhat scary as it is to have a probable autoimmune disease, I’m also happy that after four years of progressively feeling worse we are finally nearing some answers… When I told my mom that they found autoantibodies that pointed towards RA she commented, “I’ve never seen someone so happy to find out that they might have rheumatoid arthritis!” But when you have been feeling bad for years and are convinced something more than just poor sleep or being overweight is the cause of your issue, finally getting some evidence that you were right all along feels like a win!

Sadly, I know my story is the norm when it comes to autoimmune disease, because at first the symptoms are so vague and general that it really could be just poor sleep, life stress and/or lifestyle factors… (even with autoimmunity those things are super important)… Symptoms are also often systemic, and there are not really any autoimmune specialists, rather patients must see specialists for all their varying symptoms. A GI doc for their digestive issues, an endocrinologist for their thyroid, a rheumatologist for their joint pain and of course their GP for general wellness check ups and to get referals for all the specialists. According to the AARDA it takes an average of 5 years (and five doctors) before a patient receives a diagnosis. By that metric I am right on time to be (hopefully) nearing a diagnosis.

Now again, I don’t know for sure that I have RA, there are still other tests to do and the autoantibodies they found in my bloodwork can also be present in other autoimmune conditions and even non-autoimmune conditions (like lung infections and cancer). Once we have pinned down a more firm diagnosis I will definitely follow up. Nevertheless…

I’m thankful that my healthcare providers believed me when I said my troubleshooting wasn’t helping and I still wasn’t feeling well. I’m thankful they were willing to order tests even if the likelihood was low that anything would turn up. I’m thankful we are working to find answers and not just fix symptoms. I’m thankful that I have insurance and even though the bills have been pricey, they have so far been manageable. I’m thankful that I have a job that has allowed me to take the time off of work that I have needed for doctors’ appointments, testing and PT. I’m thankful to have a job I enjoy which makes it much easier to come in and find meaning and pleasure in your work even on days when you aren’t feeling great.

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Best Real Food Products Available Online

With working full time, taking classes part time and trying to make time for rest and relationships – shopping for groceries is something I like to get done quickly. I love the option to order pantry staples online, here are some of my favorite products of the moment….

Vanilla Ghee – Yummy! Perfect for paleo/keto desserts and sweet fat bombs. (Also available in Himalayan Sea Salt for your salty/sweet and savory needs).

Sprouted Pilli Nuts. These creamy fatty nuts are a great snack to stash when you need something on the go or to tide you over until your next full meal.

Paleo Angel Power Balls. These AIP friendly nuggets really hit the spot. I loved the lemon and vanilla flavors best, but they were all tasty. Try a sample pack to discover your own favorites!

Wild Cocoa Butter Wafers. Cocoa butter is super versatile! Use it in homemade soaps and lotions – or melt it into your tea or coffee for a rich, nutty hit of healthy fat.

 

What are some of your favorite online real food discoveries?

 

Ditching the Scale

When you are in an abusive relationship with a partner who tells you that you are worthless, it’s time to break up…

In early May I started a new weight lifting program and along with that I had weighed and measured myself, establishing yet another “before” baseline for comparison. Then as I finished the first month of the program I realized that I did not want to weigh in as scheduled.

Like many I can have a love-hate relationship with the scale. On the one hand I love data. This isn’t an n=1 lifestyle experiment for nothing! And weight is one of the easiest data points to collect. Plus when I lose weight it can be very motivating, even though weight loss is not my primary health goal. On the other hand if the scale doesn’t budge it can be very defeating.

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I remember when I was doing CrossFit regularly and after months of going to the box to WOD with the crew 3 times a week the scale had not budged. (In fact I don’t even think my body composition changed much either since my clothes fit pretty much the same as well). Even though I was setting PRs and clearly getting stronger those victories were obliterated by my not losing weight.

But worse than that are the times in my life when my weight actually over-shadowed my health. The social stigma of being fat was so great that I would do almost anything to get rid of my excess weight. I wished to be anorexic. I was jealous of (my perception of) their will power.  If only I could just stop eating! Life would be better, people would love me, I would be happy if I just didn’t have to eat! Failing the will power to develop an eating disorder I even wished to be struck by a serious illness. You know who is skinny without even trying? People with Crohn’s disease. People with cancer. Maybe I will be struck with cancer! (Lord knows I have the family history for it). I might be dying but at least I would look good doing it!

This type of thinking is perverse, and yet I doubt I am the only fat person who has ever had these thoughts. Such is the state of our culture and the collective shame at our perceived deficiencies as human beings, that a person would rather be a truly ill skinny person than the mostly healthy fat person they are.

So I quit.

I have not weighed myself in months, and if my clothes are to be believed, I weigh about the same now as I did then. I did not suddenly drop 10+ pounds (only the weight of the scale itself), but neither did I balloon up. And you know what? If I remain overweight for the rest of my life but continue to pursue movement that I enjoy and do it regularly, to eat as much real food as possible and avoid the junk, then I will be content. I may yet lose weight or otherwise alter my body composition on this journey. But that is not the goal. The goal is health, at whatever weight that looks like. The scale is no longer a useful data point.

So good bye, scale, if I ever see you again it’ll be too soon.

WTF is Lunaception?

If you have never heard of Lunaception, it is the idea that women are most fertile when their cycles align with the moon cycle. Now most women have cycles that are about a month long (28-31 days), so there is a certain amount of intuitive sense to our cycles finding a rhythm within the lunar cycle. After all, our word “month” shares the same root word as “moon” for a reason. But is this really the “best” way to cycle? Is it even worth attempting?

Now I will admit that I have never tried to do the full “Lunaception” method, but I stumbled across it in a web search after noticing that I tended to ovulate around the full moon and menstruate around the new moon. I wanted to see if I was the only one with this pattern. I wasn’t! In fact it’s one of the reasons Rosh Chodesh (the new moon) celebration in Judaism has strong ties to feminity in Judaism. Other new age minded people have begun to create Red Tent ceremonies on the new moon.

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That level of ceremony might be beyond my crunchy-hippie threshold, but I still think it is fascinating. From a scientific stand point it makes sense. Our pineal gland is light sensitive and is the primary player in regulating our daily circadian rhythms. Though it has not been well-researched it is not unreasonable to think that the pineal gland might also help regulate our monthly cycles.

In my personal experience, I can tell that when I am most well my body naturally falls back into this pattern of full moon ovulation and new moon menstruation. For instance, over a year ago when I lost my dad my sleep cycles were jacked. Right afterwards I added insult to injury by flying half-way around the world to India for a service trip. Anxiety plus grief plus jet lag led to months of poor sleep, and even to symptoms of depression (more on that another time). My period also fell out of the lunar pattern during this time. Some months were longer, some shorter than my usual 29 days. I even thought it might be perimenopause! Yet, over the past several months I have been to therapy, and invested in self-care and good sleep hygiene (more on this too), my depression and anxiety have abated. At the same time my cycles have also slowly returned themselves to a regular 29 days with ovulation at the full moon and menstruation at the new moon. I take this as yet another positive sign of my improved health and continued recovery from one of the worst years of my life.

Have you ever tracked your period with the moon cycles? Have you ever done the full lunaception method? What has been your experience? Leave your comments and questions below!

First Attempt at Fasting

If you read my last post you know that I am trying to incorporate fasting into my lifestyle. Since I tend to have a lower appetite during my period, just naturally, I thought that would be a good time to try fasting. It also is a time of hormone reset, both estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest levels at the start of menses.

I discovered intuitively what others have also researched and found true, that appetite drops during menses and peaks during the luteal phase (between ovulation and menses). So it makes sense to me to harness the power of your bodies natural hormone signalling to guide intuitive eating.

To that end I decided to try a fast a couple weeks ago when I was on my period. Unfortunately it happened to fall at a time when I was visiting family so I was not able to do the full 24+ hour fast I had planned. My plan had been to just water fast for at least 24 hours, or until I felt well and truly hungry, whichever was longer. But with visiting family I had to break my fast after only 18 hours of fasting. Still, it was amazingly easy to just not eat during that time. Normally I would have tried to eat something, overriding my body’s natural cues, because I’ve been told for so long that you have to eat or it’ll tank your metabolism, etc.

Though my fast was not as long as I might have liked, it was a proof of concept for me as to the ease of fasting during menses as a woman. So in a couple weeks when it rolls around again I will again attempt a 24+ hour fast while on my period.

Have any of you, male or female, incorporated fasting into your healthy lifestyle? If so, how? Have you found that timing your fasts in any particular way makes them easier?

Share your fasting stories and questions in the comments!

Fasting Experiment

I have been reading a lot lately on the benefits of fasting (like this and this), especially for helping with gut healing, insulin resistance and cancer. Since I have IBS-D, and a strong family history of both diabetes and cancer, it seems to me to be very worthwhile to try a 3-5 day fast.

But then the question occurred to me, when? So many health and medical studies do not include women. The famous studies on fasting, such as the Minnesota Starvation Study which used conscientious objectors during WWII as study participants, have been performed using almost exclusively men. Even current proponents of fasting are largely men. What about we double X-ers? What effects does fasting have that are unique to the female body? With our hormone cycles is there a particular time of month/cycle that fasting is most effective and/or least detrimental?

My hypothesis is that, of course, there is. And I am setting out to find out what that time is as an n=1 experiment. Now because I am on a health journey and hopefully having ongoing improvements in my health, there is just no way to have a true control group. One month I may the stronger than the month before, have better hormone levels going into fasting than the month before, or just have overall better health going into the study than previous fasting tests.

With those caveats in mind though my hypothesis is that the optimum time for women to fast is during menses. For one, personal experience has revealed that I already have a decreased appetite during that time of month. Unlike other phases of the uterine/ovarian cycle, you are neither nurturing a developing oocyte, nor building your endometrium for the possibility of implantation. Your body is already in reset mode.

To that end, I will be attempting a 3-5 day fast during my next menses. My fast will start when I first notice signs of my period starting and will continue until my flow stops. (Sorry if this is TMI for more squeemish readers, but it’s a biological fact of life and I will try to use the appropriate anatomical and physiological terms as much as possible).

Have any of you fasted before? If you are a woman, have you timed fasting to your cycle? What have your experiences been?plate

Crunchy Product Review

I am a Crystal convert. No, not crystal meth – but Crystal brand deodorant. I have been on the hunt for a more natural deodorant option for a couple years now. Trying many brands for weeks at a time. Jason brand (whose aloe gel I love) gave me a red rash. Tom’s brand made my BO smell like skunk. Ewww. A homemade recipe involving baking soda, organic corn starch, coconut oil and essential oil worked for a while, but ultimately irritated my underarms as well. So I went back to my sensitive skin formulation of a conventional brand.

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Then at a backyard barbecue the conversation somehow ended up on deodorant options (no, I don’t remember how or why this became our topic of conversation). I shared my complaints with other natural brands I had tried and a friend told me about Crystal. So the next time I was at the store I went and bought some in the roll on form.

Crystal is not an antiperspirant, but a deodorant that uses natural salts to keep your natural sweat from getting too smelly. I love it! Even though I started using it in the summer time, far and away the sweatiest time of year (and a stressful time of year for me at work to boot – stress sweat anyone?), I have yet to get home at the end of the day to overwhelming BO. I am still able to sweat – which I prefer – my body, after all, is not creating sweat for kicks and jollies but because it serves a purpose. It is great to be free to sweat and also comfortable in the knowledge that I’m not malodorous nor clogging my pores or exposing my body to probable carcinogens in conventional brands.

Crunchy Recommended.

How To Be Crunchy

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I’m a hippy at heart. When I visualize my ideal self I am that ethereal, feminine girl that glow from the inside – is present, joyful, well-nourished and athletically fit too. But the reality of my life is much different. I all too often choose convenience over real food and, even though I know in the long run that working out would boost my energy, I just feel too tired to work out. I feel anxious often, rather than peaceful and present.

Join me on this journey as I learn How to Be Crunchy – how to live a holistic, nourished lifestyle. From food choices to fitness, spiritual and mental well-being, and cleaning up my daily environment at home, at work and at school.