So. What am I eating on this whole healing protocol thing anyways? Lots! (Up above you’ll see just a few of the delicious eats I enjoyed last week: kale with onions and peppers, a new recipe for a breakfast “tart” with lots of pesto and sauerkraut, and some carrot pancakes that I threw together one morning on a whim.)
To recap last week’s post, I’m working on supporting healthy digestion, clear skin, and good sleep. Diet obviously plays a huge role in this. (I’m also working on stress reduction/management, but I’ll save that for another day.) When it comes to my food, I haven’t made any huge changes, just small tweaks.
(Before I get too far into this post, please know that I’m not recommending that anyone else do exactly what I’m doing to heal nor am I suggesting that this is the only way to get results. I am the one person who knows my body best just like you are the one person who knows your body best, so I’m doing what I know in my mind and heart is right for me. Now that that’s out of the way…back to the food!)
After quite a bit of research and reading and research and reading and research and reading, I’ve decided to take what most people would call a Paleo approach to my healing protocol. So, I just Googled “the paleo diet” and got 4,790,000 results in 0.2 seconds. I’m not kidding! It’s a popular topic, to say the least. But I’m not doing it because it’s popular. I’m doing it because it works. I feel good eating this way.
Shortly after giving up gluten and dairy, I went vegan for about 8 months focusing on plant foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, oils, brown rice, quinoa, beans, and lentils). After a few months, my blood work came back with a lot of problems, my weight just wouldn’t stabilize, and I lacked energy. That’s not to say that a vegan diet is bad. Not at all. It just didn’t work for me.
I’ve come full circle since then and have since discovered that my body works best when I focus on produce, clean proteins, and healthy fats. The majority of the past two years, this is how I’ve eaten with the occasional addition of brown rice, quinoa, and beans.
I don’t like putting labels on the way I eat (vegan, plant-based, Paleo, etc.). I just like to eat a wide variety of whole foods. I guess you could say it’s the Hallie Diet. But to really focus on healing my digestion and getting rid of my symptoms, I’m going one step beyond a “mostly grain-free” diet and am intentionally trying to incorporate more principles of the Paleo lifestyle, such as:
- Support digestion at every meal!
- Don’t worry about fat. It’s good for us. Just don’t worry about it.
- Eat a fair bit of meat.
- But eat WAY more vegetables than meat.
What does this look like? Well, how about we start with what I’m not eating, and then we’ll take a look at what I am.
What’s Off the Table (for now…)
- All grains, including gluten-free grains/flours. Grains and I have had a rocky history. I guess you could say we’re fair weather friends. Sometimes we get along and sometimes we don’t. I don’t believe that grains are inherently bad, which is why I would eat (prior to last week when I started this protocol) the occasional gluten-free grain-based baked good or scoop of rice. But for all healing intents and purposes, they’re off the table for now.
- Beans and legumes. I don’t really have a problem digesting them, but they are definitely one of the harder foods to digest if not cooked properly, so I’ve taken them off the menu to keep things really easy on my system.
- Dried fruit. (*Tears*) I love my dried fruit, maybe a little too much! Dates, figs, raisins, dried blueberries, superfruits, you name it I love it. But dried fruit, even if it’s completely natural and organic and packed with antioxidants, is still a hefty source of natural sugar. Sugar, no matter its form, can interfere with hormones, lead to skin problems, and effect digestion as well. So dried fruit and I are taking a temporary break. But it’s okay. I know we’ll get back together (in moderation) someday.
- Sweeteners. To be honest, saying goodbye to dried fruit is way harder for me than saying goodbye to sweeteners. I don’t use much of them in my daily cooking anyway, so it’s no biggie. That said, I am using very small amounts of raw local honey from time to time in things like salad dressings. I don’t think it’s going to completely derail the protocol if I eat a 1/4 teaspoon of honey every few days.
- High-sugar fruits. Sayonara bananas and oranges and pineapple. They’re higher on the glycemic index and generally have more sugar than things like green apples and berries, so I’m staying away from them for now.
I should point out here that I am allowing myself a treat day every 4-5 days to keep me sane. On treat days, I get to enjoy one small treat that has something a little “off limits” in it. I’m not eating a pound of dates here, people! Just a little something to reward me for my good efforts. Examples: a small bowl of banana slices with coconut milk and cacao nibs, a date stuffed with sunflower seed butter, a few raisins added to my salad.
What’s On the Table
- Vegetables! Hallelujah, oh sweet vegetables. Greens, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, celery, carrots, squash, bell peppers, cucumbers, herbs, sweet potatoes (no white potatoes), onions, garlic. I am a veggie monster. (I’m also still eating peas. I know they’re a legume, but I don’t eat them every day or in large quantities, so I’m not sweating it.)
- Fruit, with limitations. I’m sticking to lower-glycemic fruits like berries, apples, pears, kiwis, grapefruit, and the occasional frozen peach slices. I’m also only eating about 2 servings (sometimes less) of fruit per day, just to keep sugars low overall.
- Meat and seafood. Beef, chicken, turkey, salmon, sardines…pretty much any animal protein. (I don’t do much with pork or lamb, though. Just never have gotten into the habit.) I get the highest quality proteins I can find, like organic/pastured poultry and grass-fed beef when possible. It is extremely important to source quality meat if you’re going to be eating a fair bit of it. I repeat, extremely important!
- Fat. Forgive me for sounding like a broken record, but HALLELUJAH, oh sweet fat! Fat is a food savior of sorts. When you’re hungry and hankering for a handful of moist and delectable dates, get a spoonful each of coconut oil and sunflower seed butter down the hatch as fast as possible. Your cravings will be gone in a flash! I have taken to eating coconut oil and nut/seed butters by the spoonful (nothing new…) at all times of day when I need fast and easy calories. I’ve also been eating more avocados, coconut milk, ghee (clarified butter), and olive oil. When you’re eating fewer carbs, those calories have to come from something. And my body absolutely loves the fats.
- Eggs, in moderation. Eggs and I have had a rocky relationship as well, so they are in my diet right now on a rotational basis. I eat them about twice a week, and I’m doing just fine with them in this frequency.
I’m also incorporating some other foods that I’m calling “super supporters” for both their nutritive qualities and their flavor properties.
- Homemade mayo. See that picture up there? That’s my first stab at homemade mayo! It’s a little strong because I used extra-virgin olive oil which has a strong flavor, but I actually don’t mind it. I thought I hated mayo. I never (I mean never ever) used it until last week. Then I tried my homemade mayo and my entire perspective change. I enjoy it now as a source of good fats and a good flavor boost for things that may be a tad bland.
- Bone broth. I’m making homemade chicken broth and beef broth more regularly. I make it in big batches and freeze jars for easy use. Broth is a fabulous source of minerals and gelatin, which is soothing to the digestive tract. I sip it by the cupful and use it in cooking, too.
- Sauerkraut. In addition to taking probiotics (I’ll tell you about my supplements in another post), I’ve been trying to get more fermented foods into my diet. I eat a few spoonfuls of raw, probiotic-rich sauerkraut per day (usually before breakfast or lunch). I’ve also been drinking a little raw kombucha here and there, but I’m not that into it, so it’s just a “once in a while” beverage at this point.
- Cinnamon. It balances blood sugar, kills bacteria, and boosts immunity all at once. Healing or not, I can’t live without my daily doses of cinnamon!
There is so much controversy over what is really “the right way” to heal and support good digestion. Plant-based? Juice cleanses? Paleo? Primal? Everything in moderation?
Reading through all of the opinions on the web (and believe me, there are many!) about the best approach to take can drive a person bonkers, almost leading to what I call “analysis paralysis.” You analyze every approach to the point of being paralyzed and completely unsure of what to do. In cases such as this, I think it’s best to go with your gut.
Ultimately, like I said before, we each individually know our bodies best, so determining what approach we should take is completely up to us. I chose to take a Paleo path because I’ve done elements of it before and I know my body responds well to it. Simple as that.
If you’re trying to figure out what’s best for you in terms of a healing protocol, I would encourage you to take a “media fast.” Get off the internet. Stop spending late nights on Pinterest. Take a few days to just be with yourself, to tune into what your gut is telling you, and then go with it full speed ahead. Don’t let the people on “the other side” sway you off course in your plan. Stick to it! You’ll be better for it. Lasting results only come through sticking with something for longer than a few days.
My Results So Far
I’m committing to at least 30 days of the healing protocol before I determine what I want to adjust in terms of food, supplements, etc.
I’m about a week into it. Here’s a quick breakdown of how things are going.
- Digestion: Feels about the same as before, but it’s not like I had any bad symptoms before, so I’m perfectly okay with the status quo. I was a little worried that incorporating more fermented foods might give me an upset stomach, but they haven’t. Oddly, I find that when I go too long between meals is when I start to feel bloated and icky. Eating good meals and snacks at consistent intervals throughout the day is key for me.
- Skin: It actually feels really good! I still have some blemishes that I’m dealing with, and I’m guessing that will be the case for a while as skin issues can take a long time to resolve. But nothing new and horrible popped up this week, so I consider that to be progress. I will outline the skincare regimen that I’m following in a future post.
- Sleep: I had a few nights last week where I didn’t sleep so well, and I think I’m getting to the bottom of why. I’m going to trial a few more things before I report more on the sleep front, but I’ve learned some things in the past 7 days that I think will make a difference.
- Stress: What can I say? Stress ebbs and flows. Last week was not a stressful week. Who knows what this week will bring? I’ll tackle what I’m doing for stress relief in another post, too.
By the way, I did take before photos of my skin, just to have them in my back pocket in case I have some amazing transformation through this whole process. I’m not sure if I’ll ever muster up the courage to blast them out on the worldwide web, but maybe someday…
Okay, I’d say 2178 words is a long enough post for now, huh?
But before I go, I have a question for YOU:
- Is there anything in particular you’d like me to cover and blog about when it comes to this healing protocol? No topic is off limits…so let me know if there’s anything you’re dying to know!