The very good news is that for whatever reason - be it the changes we made in my allergy plan, or the advice my doctor gave me, or maybe that it was just finally time - I seem to have turned a corner and am finally finding success that feels like it's going to last.
I'm thrilled with my progress, which includes:
- I have 160 days of clean, allergen-free eating under my belt. That's at least 60 days longer than my best attempt before, and I can promise you that the last best attempt included at least two dark chocolate bars, making it not really a good-faith attempt.
- Even better, I'm at peace (most of the time) with the restrictions I live under.
- I'm totally a runner now. I love it more than almost anything and am starting to obsess about it almost as much as I obsess about knitting and books. Fact of the matter is, I also feel best on the days that I run.
- My performance in tap class has dramatically improved. My endurance is better, my mobility is better, and my accuracy is better.
- My doctor had told me that I have to find replacements for all of the foods that I lost and the experiences that come with, and I've finally figured out how to do that. Running, tap, reading and knitting have all helped fill in the gaps, but I've also gone back to keeping tons of houseplants, am writing again, and have made regular outings with three of my girlfriends a priority.
- The signals I get from my body - whether or not I'm hungry or full - now are accurate and can be trusted. It's nice that my body no longer lies to me as it once did.
- Likewise, with a few exceptions (more on that in a bit), I can also trust that if I get a craving now it's because my body needs something. I've had cravings for citrus, salmon, sweet potatoes, bananas, cauliflower...when your body needs nutrients it will tell you exactly what it needs to get them.
- In the last month my gastrointestinal system has finally begun to heal and is behaving like it should most of the time. It took a long, long time for it to start healing, and truth be told there are days when it could be better. I have to remind myself to be patient. I'm working to undo a lifetime of damage, and you don't just get over that in a few months.
- I no longer HAVE to take daily naps. This is a Very. Big. Deal.
- Not only do I not require a daily nap, but my energy levels in general are considerably better.
- I am more focused and have less brain fog, which is enabling me to be more productive in general. Believe it or not, I'm actually tackling big projects that have been hanging over my head for years, and our household is starting to run more smoothly.
- I am more present for my family.
- I no longer have: headaches, acne, foot pain, joint pain, tummy problems, gas, bloating, depression, anxiety, overwhelming fatigue, or that vague sense of being sick all of the time.
- My female hormonal cycles are normal again.
- My allergist had told me for years that if I would stick to my allergy diet my body would find a happy weight without me having to diet, and darned if she wasn't right. I've lost almost 30 lbs since April, all without having to waste one moment worrying about counting calories and/or weighing and tracking my food. It almost feels too easy.
- I'm enjoying my body and am learning to love it...for maybe the first time in my life.
- I feel like a functional human being again, and I haven't felt this way in over 10 years.
This has most certainly been a learning process, and there have been some lessons along the way:
- The rotation has helped me to uncover three more problematic foods: pineapple, white potatoes, and eggs. I've had distinct and obvious reactions to all three. (pineapple leaves my mouth and throat feeling like I have strep, and the other two have left me with a specific type of joint pain in my upper body that is for me an allergy symptom) This is both annoying, and also very good to know.
- Using a rotation is surprisingly liberating. I literally laughed when my allergist told me that it could be, but she was right. I've never really enjoyed cooking - ok, I kind of hate it - and menu planning has always stressed me out. Well, all of that's out the window. If it's beef and broccoli day, it's beef and broccoli day and there's only so many ways you can cook it!
- Also, my family loves the variety that a rotation diet enforces. We've made it even better for them by giving my eldest daughter permission to cook what she wants (from paleo recipe sources) to supplement what they are able to eat. She'll either do something fancy with the main ingredients for the day, or she'll make treats for desert or snacks. It's been fantastic, and not only are they not feeling deprived, but I'm no longer feeling guilty about having to impose my restrictions on them.
- About those cravings exceptions: While it's true that I am mostly free of the old, unhealthy, obsessive cravings I used to have for the foods that make me sick, there are times when they are going to crop up again. The good news is that they have been mostly wistful and/or slightly sad cravings and aren't strong enough to weaken my resolve or send me running to the nearest store to cheat. The bad news is that they still suck. I know I'm going to have a few days each month that are just a bit tougher than the rest, and I know that fall is always going to be a challenge because it's my peak allergy season. (Even with drops and an excellent allergy management plan, my body is still fighting off the invaders with every breath...and when pollen and mold counts are particularly high the fight is a rough one.)
- I've learned that sometimes I just have to walk away. There are times when I simply cannot be around what other people are eating because it's just too hard.
- Likewise, eating out and social events are still tough...but they aren't always as bad as they once were. It completely depends on who I'm with and their level of support and/or knowledge about my situation.
- I've learned to enjoy food again. This, my friends, is a very big deal. I may have limited options, but the rotation has helped me learn to appreciate and enjoy them.
Thank you so much for being with me along this journey!