Tuesday, September 22, 2015

160 Days... and Counting: Part 2, What Changed?

If you read my last post, you might now be wondering what the heck a rotation diet is.  You also might be wondering what the plan was, and what advice my doctor could possibly have given me back in April that would have changed everything after five years of fruitless struggle. 

So let's get to it!

I'll begin first with a quick explanation of what a rotation diet is.  Simply put, a rotation diet is an approach to dealing with food allergies that enforces variety by ensuring that you only eat a food once - and by once I mean over a 24 hour period - every four to five days.  For a more detailed explanation as to how this works and why it helps, please visit this site.

Now, I'd known at least one other family that had to live with a rotation diet, and for that family it had been a living nightmare full of food that tasted like sawdust.  While it had served to help their child heal from some very serious issues, it had also been a great burden to them.  With this in mind, I'm sure you can imagine why I'd been reluctant to attempt it myself even though my allergist had suggested we consider it several times over the last few years. 

Desperate times....

When the sobbing was over that day back in April, I finally agreed that it was time to shift to a rotation diet.  It was the exact same list of approved foods that I've been dealing with for the last five years, but an entirely new approach that would hopefully help make my restrictions more manageable and help us figure out if there were additional food problems that we weren't yet aware of.  I was seriously not happy about it - but I was also willing to try anything.

I decided that I would set my rotation up so that my 'day' began at dinner and went through late afternoon of the following day.  That way I could just make extra at dinnertime and not have to worry about fixing a new breakfast and dinner.  I bought a new notebook to track what I was eating and make sure that I was spacing the different foods out appropriately, and I dug out my beloved star stickers so that I could mark off successful days. 

Curiously enough, one of the things I also did that evening to help prepare was to sit down and make an honest to goodness list of what I COULD eat.  I had never thought to do that before...and to my chagrin, it was a much longer list than I'd thought.  Perception is everything, and sometimes we just need to think things through in a new way.

I'd be lying if I didn't confess to having eaten a ton of candy that night - dark chocolate pecan caramel clusters and dark chocolate salted caramel balls to be exact - so I'm just going to leave that here.  Sometimes a girl needs to say goodbye. 

I started out the next morning just eating approved foods, and began the rotation that evening.  Until about a month ago I stuck with it religiously, and to my surprise found that it was an amazingly good fit for not only me but for my family as well.  (More on that next time!)  While I'm not currently following the rotation - life got in the way, and sometimes we just have to do the best we can - I can proudly say that I have not once cheated on my allergy diet since I began again on April 16th.  160 days of relatively stress-free living on a diet that is so restrictive that it makes grown people cry. 

That's a win. 

As I said, though, the rotation wasn't the only step we took that day.  My allergist also sent me for some bloodwork to check my thyroid and a few other things, and she had me set up an appointment to talk to my OBGYN about my hormone levels.  It's all connected, and it was possible that something else was slightly out of whack and needed to be corrected too. 

The long and the short of it is that most all of the tests came back in the normal range....but both docs know it's not always as simple as the numbers would have you believe.  My thyroid tests have been normal for years, but are in a range that some now consider to borderline.  We decided to wait and see on that one.  If it came to it, we could try meds to see if they helped, but I wanted to give my body a chance to heal through nutrition first.  As to the hormone levels, my (also very wonderful and loving) OBGYN agreed with my allergist that an OTC progesterone cream might help.  The numbers looked mostly normal, but one was ever so slightly off, and she knows that my body doesn't quite fit into the standard box. (The blessings of being an allergy girl...)  At the very least, we now have a baseline to watch in the future. 

The key is that I felt better knowing we were looking at everything...and not just at my allergies. (This would continue.  At my next allergy appointment, my doctor and I would take a serious look at my GI health and I would take more steps to correct that.)

The real magic, though, was in the advice that my doctor gave me that day.  I think for her it was almost a throwaway comment, but it hit me like a ton of bricks.  We were in the midst of going over the details of my food restrictions (for the millionth time) when she said - and I quote -

"Don't make yourself crazy." 

Say what?  Have we met?  Do you know me? 

I excel at making myself crazy...and this whole allergy thing seems perfectly designed to drive someone over the edge. 

And yet my brilliant doctor said, "don't make yourself crazy." 

So how did I interpret that? 

Well, perfection is admirable but unrealistic.  This advice was NOT permission to cheat on my diet, nor was it an excuse to plan ways to get around the rules. Rather, it was a recognition of the fact that I'm a human being who would do well to be kind to herself. 

"Don't make yourself crazy" means that I shouldn't be obsessing over doing everything absolutely right all of the time.

"Don't make yourself crazy" means that I can go out to eat and not worry about the (not normally allowed) spices that may be on the mostly plain meat or on the sweet potato fries. 

"Don't make yourself crazy" means that if something happens to disrupt the rotation I am not to worry about it and will get back to it as soon as I am able.

"Don't make yourself crazy" means I can spend a day eating nothing but protein if that's all I really want...or it means I can eat sweet potato and root veggie chips without guilt...or it means that I can totally eat as much fruit as I want if I really need something sweet.  The point here is that it doesn't always have to be a perfectly balanced meal. 

And, too, "Don't make yourself crazy" means that I need to remember that this is about more than just food.  It means that if I'm going to remove so many foods from my life I need to replace them with something - preferably with something that fills an emotional need and/or serves a purpose that food used to serve. 

"Don't make yourself crazy." 

It's such a simple phrase, and yet in combination with the rotation it's been everything to me. 

Next up, 160 Days...And Counting: Part 3, Progress At Last!

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