What’s Food Got to Do With It?

For months, and I meansΒ months, Tabitha has been at me to go on a very low carb diet, basically meat and vegetables. “Try it,” she urges me, just for a month. “I think you’ll be amazed.”

Tabitha, by the way, is the psychiatric nurse practitioner I’ve been seeing since January, the one who has been weaning me off Effexor, and providing me with supplements so I can improve my energy, sleep and mood. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know there have been some ups and downs along the way, but I’m doing much better than I was last winter.

Friday I went back to see her again, after the addition of metformin (for pre-diabetes) to my chemical stew sent me straight into depression and insomnia. By the time I saw her, I was feeling C R A Z Y, especially because I was only sleeping three hours a night. Not just crazy, but kind of desperate too. So maybe that’s why I told her, somewhat grudgingly, “Okay, fine, then. I’ll do one month no grains, no sugar, very little fruit.”

She beamed at me. I rolled my eyes. Did I really just agree to that? Me, lover of rice and popcorn and tortilla chips and oatmeal and whole grain toast with my husband’s homemade plum jam on top? Me, proud gardener who just harvested her first 15 pounds of delicious red potatoes?

So that’s what I’m doing. Since it turned out I had not had anything but kale and eggs for breakfast that Friday morning, I figured I had already started and might as well just keep going straight on with no “I’ll start later” ideas.

Today is Tuesday, so it’s been five days. So far, so good. Well, let’s be honest, I had a glass of wine Saturday evening because there was about one glass left in a bottle of pinot gris in the fridge, and we can’t be wasteful! And in the middle of the day today, when I’d had my lettuce wrap for lunch and still felt a bit hungry, I did eat 10 tortilla chips. But only 10, in the whole five days. I even went to the pumpkin patch with my husband and smelled but did not partake of the elephant ears and kettle corn.

The hardest thing is eating enough to feel full. My husband made a huge pot of minestrone, because he knows I love it, and he left out the pasta we usually put in it. I’ve been eating that and grilled chicken, along with roasted carrots and brussels sprouts and even half a sweet potato as a treat (Tabitha says that’s allowed). But I am surprised by how hungry I’ll feel not that much later.

I can’t do a lot of paleo dishes because I have a nut allergy. (Yes, pretty much all nuts send me scurrying for my epi-pen.)Β I’m going to need to get creative though. Typically I’m a person who likes a lot of variety in my meals, though sometimes that has just meant variety in what I throw in my stir-fry or taco (now no rice though and no tortillas, so that’s a challenge as well).

I’m determined to do this because 1) maybe it will help bring my A1C levels down; 2) it would be helpful to have more energy; 2) I’m already five days into it, so that’s five days down from thirty, might as well keep going, right?

Tabitha can get a little religious about the “eating clean” and supplements stuff. I’m a bit of a skeptic myself, with a tendency to think we should all eat a variety of foods, preferably as few processed foods as possible, and get some exercise. But what I’ve been doing hasn’t made me healthy. I have the prediabetes–perilously close to diabetes, in fact–as well as gallstones and chronic foot pain and stiff joints and low energy, not to mention how hard it is to get free of depression. It seems like it’s a good time to see if this will make a difference for me.

Words of advice, anyone? I’ll take some words of encouragement, too.

26 thoughts on “What’s Food Got to Do With It?

  1. You certainly have an interesting psych nurse Q! Interesting in a good way.

    I was doing paleo for a few years, and now do a modified version of it. I remember also my chief complaint at first was how to feel full enough….I implemented this for different issues – I had GI issues – nausea with every meal, hearburn, and odd gut pain. The diet really helped. I have no experience with pre-diabetes though so can’t comment on that. Overall I’m a lot healthier on Paleo than before though.

    I seem to have a sensitivity to gluten as well, so eating cereal and toast in the mornings made me feel very sluggish. Eliminating gluten for the most part has been great for me personally. I suspect everyone’s physiology is somewhat different, and different foods might be needed. I’d advise experimenting a bit, maybe once you’ve done the stricter Paleo for a while to reset your system. For instance, maybe you do fine on potatoes, and could add them back in. I’ve found the full Paleo quite demanding and am thankful I’ve put back a few things like potatoes and buckwheat.

    For psych issues also, I’ve found diet and supplements a big big help. I do have more energy than I used to. So go you! I’m all for it. It’s helped me a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ellen. It is helpful to hear other people’s experience. I told my husband that I think I will try to be quite strict for a while, and then I can experiment a little. What happens if I add some quinoa? Or oatmeal? I can add one thing back in and see how that goes.

      In the short run, though, I feel crummy. My friend Sarah tells me that it could be my body “withdrawing” from sugar. Even though I don’t think I eat a ton of sweets, I realize I was somehow eating sugar every day. Did you also go through a “withdrawal” period where you didn’t feel very good?

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      • I am sorry this diet is making you feel crummy Q. That sucks.

        For me personally, that didn’t happen, but I have heard and read that it may. My situation was different….I actually changed my diet in two steps some years apart. First I went more low-carb and high protein, and added supplements, after reading a book about treating psych issues with nutrition. This is when I also went off gluten, thought still ate some. Doing this much gave me a real boost in energy, so I kept it up. Then, when I started having gut issues, I went to Paleo, which is a lot stricter. As I was nauseous with every meal, that was a real incentive to try pretty much anything. Paleo helped almost right away, and when I strayed, I’d get nauseous again, so I had built in motivation! Going off dairy was emotionally painful but physically helpful. Personally I never did go off sugar, but eliminating gluten it was natural to stop eating a lot of cookies etc.

        Thinking about your situation, it’s a bit tricky. One approach would be to change your diet more gradually – say eliminate grains but keep other things the same. Though you do have an immediate concern, your diabetes meds and wanting to get off them, so maybe you are right to do this full on and at once.

        If you are feeling physically bad, it’s kind of an interesting symptom in a way. It’s not as if you see no change at all. So what you are doing is at least having an effect. I believe that when we are actually allergic or sensitive to a food, we often crave that food especially. Then when it’s withdrawn, the body protests. Maybe that is the case for you? I guess you’ll find out if you are able to keep on the path with this. I hope you update because I’m interested to know what happens.

        I think food is also a very emotional experience, and it’s important to still have pleasure in the foods we do eat. And it’s important emotionally to also feel full and satisfied with our meals. I found adding a fair amount of fat to meals helped with that, eating chicken with skin, fatty meats, butter. Kind of the opposite of what we’ve always been told. I remember too having sweet potatoes as my go to food, to replace the toast I’d relied on. Sweet potato with a bit of sugar and some butter was my go to. (Also dark chocolate.)

        Take care

        Liked by 1 person

        • Last weekend I was around a lot of people who are gluten or grain free or eat Paleo-style or some version of this. They made recommendations much like yours (making sure there is fat in the meal, for example). And EVERYONE is big on sweet potatoes! So I’m taking to buying lots of them.

          I am now on day 12 of no sugar, no grains, and it is getting easier, fortunately.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I have had many friends have great success low carb – sashimi (not sure where you are but they love it), spaghetti squash or zoodles (turn zucchini into noodles), stirfry on cauliflower rice!

    Hopefully that helps a bit ❀️

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the suggestions. I love sushi and will miss that, so I will try the sashimi and see if that’s a satisfying alternate. I’ve made soup before with zucchini noodles but not for ages, so I’d forgotten about that option. I appreciate the suggestions!

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  3. We have been doing this for 11 months now. My daughter cannot eat nuts so there was not enough fat really that she needed but we have added back in cheese for her to get in some.
    This was based on a lyme disease protocol. We tossed all sugar in the house and I mean everything with sugar. Everything with gluten went out.
    Here is the thing. You have to eat a TON of food. If you eat a salad with grilled chicken it needs to be a massive plate of it! I would, on the salad put garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds, raisins, tons of veggies, grilled chicken, boiled eggs, chopped up cheeese. That is the only way to feel full. I made veggie patties with brown rice, mushrooms, corn, sweet potatoes, onions and garlic. We ate them on a gluten free bagel but we would have to eat two patties to feel full. It gets rid of any yeast issues, clears foggy head. My cousin is on this diet you are talking of for her diabetes and it has really helped her. We did this for us just because we have SOO many health issues that we hired a nutritionist and she made sure we got the right suppplements in too. Thing was, not having sugar made me angry. For weeks I was really mad. My body was used to all of that sugar in a soda, a cookie, just in pasta. It was a shock to the system. I could have and should have slowly introduced it instead of cold turkey tossing everythign in the pantry. But i wish you luck with it and i really hope it helps. When they say fruit though…..we will have a turkey sandwich with lettuce and cheese and a plate of fruit, watermellon, cantaloupe, grapes, orange. And when they say veggies I will stir fry in olive oil chicken, zucchini, squash, peas, carrots, and put it in a gluten free wrap. But you just need to eat a lot of it or you will be hungry and that is miserable.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I had your comment in mind when I made dinner last night. I made a much bigger salad than usual, with romaine, a gorgeous orange pepper from my garden, roasted beets, feta cheese, kalamata olives, roasted potatoes, and grilled chicken. Luckily my husband loved it, and I did too. I still was hungry at bedtime, but not as bad as previous days.

      Tabitha just wants me to restrict the fruit for now because we are trying to keep my blood sugar as stable as possible. That will be something I experiment with adding back in later on. I still have a little, like maybe 8 grapes or an apple with cheese, but not that big yummy plate of melon, grapes and oranges that you describe. Maybe later!

      I’m encouraged to hear that changing the way you eat has been helpful to you. I hope I’ll have the same experience.

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      • Oh right I forgot about the fruit and blood sugar. That makes sense. That is not an issue with us so I forget that for others. It is also good restricting that fruit as it will restrict yeast growth.
        Before I got to bed, nomatter what time, i have to eat. I don’t know if I am suppposed to or not but dinner is not enough. I will eat a boiled egg or cheese stick 30 min before bed because I just have that pit of my stomach hunger that comes back.
        I wish you well on your meals and that dinner sounds really really good!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a strict diet! Try checking out Indian food. I’ve found loads of delicious vegetable dishes at my local restaurant – seems they can make anything (even cauliflower, which I hate) taste good.

    You might want to supplement with a B vitamin, too. Check with your nurse. If my memory is correct, this type of diet will leave you needing a supplement – and a lack of B vits in the body makes you feel tired.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do love Indian food. I don’t know how to cook it, but I’ll check out recipes on line. You are right, the spices on spinach or cauliflower are wonderful.

      I already take a vitamin B supplement–Tabitha is big on that! And I remember when I started taking it, I felt like it made some difference.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m impressed you’re having a go at this. It’s something I’ve been considering for a while, but haven’t quite got the discipline to get going with! Good luck and I hope you can find some better ways to feel full. I guess you’ll figure out what’s satisfying as you try out different things. Looking forward to hearing how you get on. Laura

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    • Thanks, Laura. I haven’t had the discipline for it, either. I think I just reached the point where I said, “fine, I’ll trying ANYTHING!” Because honestly, I’ve had terrible sleep for nearly all of 2017, and I’m so tired of being tired, tired of being sick.

      Anyway, I’ll keep posting about it. If it’s miraculously helpful for me, you can think about trying it too. πŸ™‚

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  6. A friend with diabetes and depression switched to the keto lifestyle of eating. She says she feels much better. Anecdotal data but here’s one account πŸ™‚

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    • I’ll read up on it more, but this sounds kind of similar to what Tabitha talks about. Maybe she didn’t say exactly “high fat” but she does say use coconut oil and eat avocados, both because those fats help brain function and because they can be satiating.

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  7. I laughed and felt for ya on this one but I also know you have a huge variety with meats and veggies as well. Kick into spices girl. I know you know how. You’ve got lamb, hen, mutton, quail, beef cuts, chicken cuts, French, English, African countries, Thai, Chinese, Japanese and all kinds of ethnic ways to cook your meals. Pinterest will be your friend. I follow you on Pinterest, you can link in from there and look at some of the recipes I have or I can just leave the link here.

    It would be very difficult for me to give up pasta and grains. Fresh whole grain bread is made here each week. I do dairy quite often since I’m a pizza lover.
    I can offer words of support and point you to Pinterest but ya on ur own Q. I’m not about to jump in and say I’ll suffer, I mean do this with you. I don’t envy ya.

    When it comes to recipes with nuts, I often leave them out, much to the chagrin of my African grandfather who had a love affair with peanuts. Don’t get me started in all the ways peanuts invaded/abused my food as a kid. lol. I love nuts but please, not with meat dishes. Food abuse is what it was, nutty food abuse. Stop with the nuts Papi, stop it!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve been gluten free (including corn and rice) for about 3 years now. It does get easier. At first it completely sucks. But I do feel better. I know that for me, if I eat wheat etc, I’ll go straight into a depressive episode (plus all the good GI stuff that comes along with eating it). I’m curious why you can’t eat white potatoes? They should be okay, I would think. I’m familiar with the research related to grain consumption and mental health, and I’ve never seen anything bad about white potatoes (not to mention, I do eat them all the time).
    You can do a lot with spaghetti squash. Also, look for black bean pasta (this stuff: https://www.amazon.com/Explore-Asia-Organic-Spaghetti-7-05-Ounce/dp/B0078DU1CY). It’s really good. Cauliflower rice is another awesome thing. You can actually make mac and cheese with cauliflower and it’s delicious!
    Let me know if you have any questions or if I can be of help at all πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is a very helpful comment, thank you. And I had never even heard of black bean pasta! So I appreciate the link. I’ll try cauliflower rice, too.

      I think I’m supposed to restrict the white potatoes because they have a pretty high glycemic index, and I’m supposed to keep my blood sugar as even as possible. I have been reading, however, that combining potato with fat (butter, avocado) keeps blood sugar more even, so I can try that route too.

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      • I’m really glad I could be helpful. What you said about white potatoes makes sense. Some white potatoes, I think fingerling potatoes, have a lower glycemic index. Also, for whatever reason, if you cook a white potato, then refrigerate it and eat it cold, it lowers the glycemic index, I think (it does something and I believe that’s what it is). And of course, there is always butter πŸ™‚
        Look around at your grocery store and online. There’s all sorts of different flours out there. A lot of them are nut flours, but some aren’t. I’ve tried arrowroot and plantain flour and they’re good. There’s also potato and sweet potato flours.

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  9. Hey Q, I’m not blogging anymore but I still read blogs now and again and I noticed no one mentioned the fact that diabetes and other “lifestyle” illnesses like heart disease are often brought on by the very meds that we take to help us manage symptoms of depression, anxiety, mania etc.
    A bipolar aquaintance of mine was diagnosed with diabetes and fatty liver after years of popping paychiatric meds. She lives on fast food. Sucks for her.
    You on the other hand sound like you’ve been eating in a balanced way and still are borderline diabetic. Medical professionals need to let us know how meds will truly alter our metabolism and create additional health concerns.
    (I’m annoyed on your behalf and mine) and my point is simply to highlight how amazing you are and how motivated you are to achieve healing. Carbs are not the devil, the metabolism-sabotageurs are!

    Be well,
    J

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    • Thanks for this comment! You know, I only heard this from my psychiatric nurse a couple of days ago. She said she hadn’t known about it, either (and I consider her pretty well-informed and diligent). She only found out when she had lunch with her mentor and the topic came up. One more reason for me to get off the Effexor (which the mentor said seemed to be implicated in problems with insulin).

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