Today marks the completion of my first 18 weeks and four months of my new lifestyle change. Truth be told, when I was informed that I would no longer be able to eat some of my favorite foods - tomatoes, avocados, cumin, eggs - I was wary. In fact, most everyone I discuss my diet with expresses the same sentiments I initially held: there is no way I could ever do that!
While this change in diet has certainly tested my capabilities to whip up functional and yummy meals in the kitchen (I mean, who actually knows what to do with cabbage? And what the heck is ghee? What do you mean, I can't have salsa, guacamole, or green chile?! I'm a New Mexican for goodness sake!), it has had an even greater impact upon my self-restraint, teaching me that my resolve to not pine after a glass of malbec during happy hour or a perfectly decadent stout while I'm hitting the local breweries is, in fact, stronger than that supposed need to imbibe. Sure, I have gone through intense cravings for those foods I cannot eat (I still wonder when I'll be able to eat a proper, gluten-full chocolate cake or Sadie's salsa again), but I know that it is for the improvement of my health that I remain 100% committed to this diet, even if at the end of the day there are more foods I cannot eat than I can eat.
Perhaps the most frustrating comment I get is along the lines of Oh my gosh, I would die if I had to follow your diet! I am so sorry! I am thankful that people do see the challenge in this change; however, I think many people miss the point. For one, I am not dead, nor do I anticipate the positive results of this diet to shorten my life; I am quite possibly more alive on this diet. Secondly, this diet has enabled me to explore the depths of my character, to understand my motives for taking on this challenge, and has shown me a positive picture of my present and future.
When I first met with my nutritionist just over four months ago to discuss the results of my blood test and the process of my food reintegration program, she honestly scared me out of my wits. She explained that the program was extremely difficult, and that it would be easy to slip up. With her words on my mind, I was dreading the day I wouldn't be diligent or strong enough to follow my plan 100%. Maybe my feelings of obligation toward my parents for their full support through the transition have encouraged me to stick to my plan more than I thought. In the 18 weeks since I have started, I have stuck to my diet wholeheartedly.
More than that, though, is a sense of duty to myself. I have been given one body to get me through this one life. Heaven knows the horrible things I have put in it in the last 22 years, the ways in which I have compromised my health - either knowingly or unknowingly - by eating processed foods and whole foods that cause inflammation in my body. Just as a homeowner tends to the internal cleanliness of the home in which he or she resides, I must tend to the internal health of the body in which I live. Knowing the reason why my health rapidly declined over the better part of a year and a half, why would I ever intentionally choose to put my body through that again? Nobody would wish that upon their loved ones; in order to care for my body, I must treat it lovingly. Besides, it's gotten me through a heck of a lot of painful injuries and sicknesses in my lifetime, so I see no reason not to strengthen and nourish its core so I am better equipped to take on whatever may come.
In short, the intention of this lifestyle change is just that: it is a change in my habits so that I will be able to live a healthy life, uninhibited by the consequences of inflammation in my body (which leads to a plethora of diseases, as well as the weakening of the immune system). And along the way, I get to practice self-restraint!
So far, the consequences of my choices have been nothing but positive. Sure, it is frustrating beyond belief to go out to eat, having to ask the restaurant for a full ingredients list, and sometimes not being able to order anything. Sure, it is frustrating going out for happy hour and drinking a pitcher of nothing other than water while my company throws back their pitchers of beer. Sure, it is frustrating when friends make it a big deal when I can't eat or drink what they're consuming, as if it's a detriment to my worldly experience. The thing is, I can eat and drink whatever the heck I want. If I truly wanted to, I could break all the rules and spend a night out with friends, drinking beer, eating pizza, and indulging in some glutenous chocolate cake (see what I did there?). But I won't. I don't want to. Instead, I choose not to indulge. I know just how terrible I will feel - in my conscience and in my stomach - if I go against the commitment I have made to improve my health. Thus, it is not a matter of ability, but of conscious choice, of self-restraint. Yes, it did take a considerable amount of willpower initially. However, now that I have carved new habits into my lifestyle, it has become much less challenging. I crave the foods that nourish my body (like lamb and salmon, which I used to detest) and would choose those over the foods I know would throw my system out of whack. Funnily enough, those no longer seem all that appetizing to me.
Overall, I feel about a hundred times more energetic than I used to feel. Four months ago, an 8 mile bike ride was enough for a day's physical activity. Now, I could probably bike 50 miles and still have energy to spare. I've noticed that I am stronger than I used to be. Not only in the physical sense, but also in mind and character. I've learned the importance of routine upkeep on my body and the benefits therein. If I feel so much better four months in, how much healthier will I feel four years in? Although it's a bummer my body does not respond well to some perfectly healthy foods, I consider it a blessing to understand the importance of nurturing and strengthening it with the foods it was designed to enjoy. And I get the added bonus of learning how to cook alternative meals, using my creativity and palate to guide what have been some of the best culinary discoveries I've made.
So while my current situation may seem bleak to many of those I encounter, I consider it an enormous blessing to learn so much so early into my life. It has tested and strengthened my resolve, and has also shown me the necessity of healthful habits and the importance of adhering to my goals, especially those that will enhance my quality of life.
As much credit as I would like to take for the success of this process thus far, I would like to thank all those who have encouraged me throughout these past 4 months, particularly my wonderful parents for setting aside the time, energy, and patience to support this lifestyle!