I’m three weeks, two days, fourteen hours and fifty-three minutes (as of writing this) into my three month Microbiome Diet challenge. When this blog posts, I’ll be further along in case you just felt as bad for me as I did writing that.
Our obsession and need for food is fascinating. Obviously we need to eat to live, though I have always been someone who lives to eat. I love food. This may be the first time in my life I’m eating to live. I’ve cut gluten (which I’ve done for the past five years anyway), dairy, and sugar (including maple syrup and honey, but excluding fruit). Whole foods do taste good, but on this diet I never overeat, and I find I’m not actually that inclined to eat.
Here’s my problem. I love carbs and cheese. And apparently if I can’t eat them I don’t really want anything else. I would never have told you that I didn’t like meat, but I find myself having to force feed myself meat. I’ve discovered I don’t like chicken. I’ll eat it. Sometimes it even tastes good, like when it’s wrapped in bacon, but I could happily pass on the stuff. When I was a little girl, every time my mom served ham, I would say, “This is the best chicken ever.” It still is.
Though I’m passing on chocolate and ice cream, gluten-free pastries, and g-free cheesy-stuffed breads I just discovered, I haven’t lost a pound. That is incredibly disheartening. I’m not doing this diet to lose weight, but I thought it would be a perk and a motivator. I’m really not enjoying food as much as I used to without seeing any obvious gain. Sure I feel better. I always feel better when I eat more veggies and less junk, but I don’t feel better enough.
I also find myself conflicted in an unexpected way. I’m trying this diet because there is some research to support that gut health and our microbiome (the trillions of bacteria swimming around in our gut) affect our immune system and may be especially linked with autoimmune diseases. I have a couple autoimmune issues (Hashimoto’s and psoriasis) and am hypothyroid, so I thought it would be worth it to try for three months. I have nothing to lose, but three months of somewhat less enjoyable food. As I experience how much time and planning it takes to eat whole, healthy foods, and as I see how difficult it is to go out with friends or travel, I’m torn. Being gluten-free can be a pain enough in society. You always feel like you’re putting people out, although my close family and friends are incredibly accommodating and never make me feel bad. Being everything-free really limits social interactions. On the one hand, I’d like the diet to work. I’d have something I can turn to. If things flare up, I could cut out dairy, gluten and sugar for a stint. Or I could choose to cut them entirely and hope I don’t get any more autoimmune diseases. On the other hand, I’d like the diet to fail because the idea of giving up all these foods potentially permanently is sad and frustrating. If it fails, I’m not left with a decision or a sense of guilt when I do indulge in dairy decadence. But then I’m left having tried most available options, except Pig Whip Worm currently only available in Tijuana. Things aren’t bad enough for me that I’m planning a trip to Mexico for pig whip worm (but don’t think I haven’t considered it). I feel a little damned if I do, damned if I don’t. If the diet works, that sucks because it means giving up foods I enjoy, and if the diet doesn’t work I still have autoimmune issues there aren’t spectacular answers or solutions for yet. It kind of feels like neither way is a win. I know ultimately I have to change my perspective. That’s what it comes down to. And I will, but in the transitory period I’m not thrilled with my choices.
As a positive note for this diet, it has made me stop and think about my typical lifestyle. I’m not sure what I’ll return to after the three months, but I’ve noticed that sometimes eating is just a habit. I detest coffee. I think it tastes gross. Still, warm, frothy beverages are what I miss the most. I drink half a mocha latte (the mocha to mask the coffee flavor) once or twice a week. And now when I see someone drinking one I want to tackle them and wrestle their hot beverage away, even when it’s 90-degrees outside. So at 12:50pm on Thursday when I drive by a Starbucks, I want to stop like I normally do. When I’m sitting in an airport, I want to grab food or snack to pass the time like I normally do. When Matt and I go for a walk, I want to pick up ice cream at the local creamery like we normally do. When I run more than five miles I want to treat myself to chocolate milk like I normally do. First, you should be noticing I have some bad habits. But ultimately that’s what they are—habits. Habits can be hard to break. It’s the comfort of the ritual that reels us in. But we can break habits. We can form new ones.
I’m happy to have that realization, but if I’m going to stick to this, I’d want to feel considerably better. I’d need to feel like the healthiest person in the world. When I gave up gluten five years ago, I noticed changes immediately. And noticeable benefits continued to pop up as I lived with my gluten-free self longer. So the saga of the microbiome diet will be continued…
In the meantime, please note: I’m open to tips from people who live with dietary restrictions and have recipes they love. I’d welcome comments from anyone who has discovered how to make chicken a dream food. I should be fairly easy to impress. I just opened the almond butter I’ve been using all three weeks and double checked to make sure I didn’t miss sugar in the ingredients it tasted so sweet. All foods taste better when sweets are off the docket.