A quick note before reading– I am not a nutritionist or health professional. Do not take anything I say below as being right for you. It worked for me but this was with a lot of guidance from my GP and nutritionist. Seek out good ones of those and work with them. This blog is purely to show that you can change things around, live a normal life with treats, lose weight, feel great and keep it off in much less than a year. I know that it helped me reading about others who had been through similar, that is what this blog intends to do.
With an ankle well into recovery and some big things addressed with my mental health, I decided to quite literally look at the elephant in the room. My weight!
At first it wasn’t my weight I was addressing. I had been suffering from chronic IBS symptoms for some time, in fact I couldn’t remember when my gut had felt normal, so I decided I needed help.
I went to my GP and was originally put on fibre supplements which actually made me feel a lot worse. The bloating and constipation was awful. My GP had also run some blood tests to rule out coeliac, Crohn’s or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, all of which had been ruled out before but as my symptoms had got much worse, it was worth checking again. My results came back clear of all those but showed up high levels of white blood cells and a high liver function level. My white blood cells returned to normal pretty quickly, (I have since read that white blood cells can be raised due to stress and I was certainly under a lot of that at the time). The liver function though was more of a worry and it wasn’t reducing that quickly, so I was sent for an ultrasound.
The ultrasound showed I had a fatty liver and 2 rather large gallstones and it appears that the symptoms of those combined with IBS was what was causing me so many issues.
What symptoms was I experiencing?
Severe Constipation leading to fecal impaction
Really loose stools when I did eventually poo
And just generally feeling pretty pants most of the time
What could I do about it?
Well I had already started to do the right things. In an attempt to lose a bit of weight I was back exercising, mainly Zumba and some free weights, and I was eating better. I was loosely following the Joe Wicks way of eating, so lower carbs and carbs you do eat are the good unrefined kind, plenty of veg ( a lot of spinach!), drinking more water and eating lots of lean protein. It was working, the weight was coming off, and when I went back to the GP for blood tests in March my liver function levels were normal, which is under 50. To put that into context when I saw my GP in the December my liver function levels were 109!
I had also gone alcohol free for a month and was now only drinking a couple of units a week. I had got into bad habits with alcohol and drinking on a weekday evening was becoming normal. I felt I deserved it because of the stresses I was going through. I now realise that is not a healthy mindset but more about that in another blog.
So by spring 2019 I was in a much healthier place both physically and mentally, and my IBS had improved so much but it still wasn’t perfect and I was determined to become symptom free. I decided to work with a nutritionist.
I chose to work with Gina Hearn Fonseca of Glowing Balance. After a long discussion and questionnaire about my health it became clear that I had suffered from gut issues my whole adult life starting with a nasty episode of food poisoning, campyr bactyr, at 16. I was literally ill with diarrhoea for weeks and of course back then gut health was not understood in the way it is today. I got better and carried on as normal. I certainly never took any pro biotics or supplements to support my gut recovery.
My tummy was always weak after that. When we went on holiday I would be the one with the dodgy tummy. I was diagnosed with IBS in my mid twenties and it got worse after the birth of my son. It would be up and down for years after that until in the last few years it was pretty much full on symptoms continually.
The first thing Gina got me to do was complete a 3 week elimination diet. This meant gluten free, dairy free, alcohol free, caffeine free, no onion, no garlic, no chilli. The alcohol free was fine. I’d done it before. Gluten and dairy free seems easier these days too as it is much better catered for. Onion, garlic and chilli free was much harder and I think on the couple of occasions I had to eat out there was no way I avoided some of this.
I was also taking a number of supplements including a pro biotic, digestive enzymes, physillium and calcium magnesium butyrate.
To begin with I felt worse, low energy and drained, but then I realised that was my body cleansing out and quite quickly I started to feel much better. I was going to the toilet normally!
After the 3 weeks I started to add back gradually all the stuff I had eliminated and all was well. I went a bit overboard with chilli and garlic in re introduction, but I reintroduced them more mindfully later and all was fine.
The elmination diet really cemented a huge lifestyle change. I felt I was learning how to eat properly and fully understand what my body needed to be well. I’m now at the stage where I am comfortable eating 70/80% en pointe and 20/30% a bit more relaxed. I still enjoy a drink, cake, chips because I know my gut is getting all the good stuff it needs to behave.
Key changes have been:-
1) Understanding what my body needs. I knew I wasn’t getting enough fibre but I was scared to add much more as I knew some fibre could make my IBS worse,. Working with a nutritionist helped me understand the right type of dietary fibre my body needed. I now eat a lot of greens (and love them)!
2) Being organised has been key. Even though I have a supermarket at the end of the road I get an online delivery every week so I know I have the right food in to make meals that are balanced. I also largely prepare my breakfast and lunch the night before (that may just be leftovers from dinner).
3) Embracing supplements. I very much discounted supplements before. Surely I should be able to get everything I need from the food I eat? Well yes you can, but if your body is severely lacking in those things perhaps due to trauma, it may need some help getting back on track before food can do it all. I am still taking a lot of supplements but the plan is to reduce these and let food take over.
4) Carbs are not the enemy. I followed a very low carb diet at the beginning of the year and lost weight. When working with Gina I ate a lot more carbs and still lost weight. Refined carbs for me were a big no no. They just simply didn’t agree with me and caused a lot of bloating. Eating unrefined carbs for me has been fine.
5) Drink more water and then drink more again. The best purchase I have made this year is a JosephJoseph water bottle which has a counter that clicks on every time you refill it. When I have clicked on 4 times I have drunk 2-3L. It has been so easy to drink 2-3L with this water bottle/
6) There is more to food that garlic, chilli and onions. Before the elimination plan they were my go to flavours. I still love them but I have a much more varied repertoire. If you’re not adding ginger, miso paste of paprika to your food you could be missing a trick.
7) Visiting a nutritionist has been the best money I have ever spent. I wish I’d done it years ago. They are really best placed to advise you what dietary changes are best for you.
8) Making veg the central part of my meals. I still eat meat and fish but now what veg I am eating has become far more important. I tend to be largely meat free at breakfast and lunch and just more plant based in general. I am now frequently disappointed by how unimaginative restaurants are with veg.
I am now more or less at my ideal weight. I’d like to tone up my abdomen a bit more but that will come. I have dropped 3 dress sizes and think I have lost between 2.5 – 3 stones. I feel confident I can maintain this as I feel confident I know how to fuel my body and how much good stuff I need to negate any bad stuff. I have gone back to loving clothes (my bank balance doesn’t agree so much) and I have had so many compliments about my skin and hair, including that I look 10 years younger, that the quite big lifestyle changes have been so worthwhile. It is tough to begin with but when you start to feel so much better the lifestyle changes really seem to make sense.